Happy Boy has class on his side
Trainer Caspar Fownes has got his new season off to a flying start with five wins in two meetings and his Hong Kong Derby aspirant, Happy Boy, should continue the roll in the Kwangtung Handicap Cup (1,400m) at Sha Tin today.
Fownes has hit the ground running and, though his team for this afternoon's fixture is a light one with four runners and his main focus is on Green Birdie in Japan, Happy Boy (Brett Prebble) should keep the flag flying by breaking his local maiden and establishing himself as a real up-and-comer. Racing as Tribunal in Australia, the Encosta De Lago gelding strung together three wins on end at this time last year in Melbourne before coming to the end of his tether before the serious three-year-old races even began.
As a result, Fownes was able to land him here off a rating of 85 and Happy Boy did nothing in his three runs towards the end of last term to suggest that he was no less promising for the change of environment.
He found the line well over 1,200m at his first two starts, before again hitting the line hard at the finish of 1,600m when well-tried at his final run in July. That late conclusion ensured Happy Boy will not have had too much time off during the change of seasons, but there will still be the freshness on him required to give this future stayer the dash for 1,400m first-up.
His trial on September 3 left no doubt that Happy Boy comes to the race in good form - asked to do little early by Prebble, Happy Boy was eating up the ground in the final stages without the rider putting him under any pressure.
If an issue could emerge for Happy Boy, it would be if the race panned out with a lack of speed, but that shouldn't be the case, with free running Billion engaged, and California Moon and Soaring Dragon drawn among the outside gates.
That pace factor also looks important for his main danger, the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Exceptional Art (Alex Lai Hoi-wing), who made a big impression at his first two runs last season before pulling up after his last-run flop with lameness issues that later curtailed his season.
Yiu gave Exceptional Art a quiet trial up the straight on August 28, but the baldy faced gelding moved well enough to suggest a forward showing fresh.
Man of the moment
Number of wins Caspar Fownes, who leads the trainers' standings, has registered after two meetings: 5