Fresh is best for Electronic Master
Manfred Man Ka-leung enjoyed his most successful season with 43 winners last term, but he is yet to get off the mark after five meetings and will be watching keenly as Electronic Master and Brett Prebble step out in the middle leg of Thursday's Triple Trio at Happy Valley.
With a jackpot of over HK$1.9 million, an estimated pool of HK$4 million will be up for grabs at the holiday meeting, and Electronic Master looks a contender worthy of a banker.
Despite carrying top weight of 133 pounds, the six-year-old returns to Class Four where he has recorded all four of his wins, the most recent when in this grade over this course in March.
Importantly, that day he was first-up from a short break, which gives a strong pointer to his chances in his return this term.
Prebble will give his mount every conceivable hope from barrier two and, if Electronic Master can reproduce his form from last term, he will go close to winning.
The biggest danger comes from Home With Glory, who was held up in the straight 13 days ago, but managed to finish third behind rival Jolly Wongchoy.
The blinkers stay on for this run and another bold showing can be expected, although his task will be no easier coming around the field from barrier 11.
Jolly Wongchoy looks an early pace influence once again and will probably boot up underneath Top Dragon to share the lead from gate five.
Industrial Hero and Rewarding Star can be well positioned behind the pace from good draws, as can Bullish Win, who has the advantage of barrier one.
Looking for a banker in the opening leg appears fraught with danger, but in the interests of narrowing the combinations it's a bullet that must be bitten.
Class Five 1,650m races are always difficult to forecast, and throw in the fact that Fantastich and Star Of Chiu Ton are both resuming for new trainers, and there is an extra element of the unknown to contend with.
My Way ran a solid race first-up for Caspar Fownes last start and, with Prebble in the irons, is likely to be well supported in betting.
Douglas Whyte's mount, Keep Going, is also a possible banker play from barrier two, but the step up to the mile for the first time provides some doubt about his stamina, despite the assurances provided by his moniker.
Ice Fire makes appeal from barrier five after an encouraging display for second to Happy Cha Cha 13 days ago. Jeff Lloyd can slot him in midfield with cover and enjoy a more charmed run than he experienced on that occasion when he was forced to roll forward without cover to combat a slow tempo.
Perhaps Olivier Doleuze can lift Lucky Amici to his first win in Hong Kong, 18 starts after he arrived on a rating of 90 for trainer Sean Woods.
He will strip fitter for his first outing, which was such a tough, wide-without-cover run. Now off a mark of 38, Lucky Amici is due to bounce off the ratings bottom at some stage, and could be a value inclusion for a top-three finish.
The all important final leg - where fortunes are won and tales of narrow misses abound - looks a mad scramble from start to finish, and should suit horses who like to race off the speed.
Megabucks, Spicy Shrimp, All The Winners, Sou Ma Tam and K-Jack will do each other no favours as they scoot for the lead from awkward barriers - but these same tactics will play into the hands of closers like Joyful Joyful, Brilliant One, Fast Go and Asian Citrus.
Joyful Joyful appears a solid banker with Whyte doing the steering from barrier four and should be well positioned behind the pace to drop on the tiring leaders late. Asian Citrus finished more than satisfactorily first-up over this course 13 days ago and is certainly a chance of improving on that fourth in this event.
Brilliant One has drawn the inside and will also be hard to hold out at the finish if he gets a split between horses in the straight, while fellow strong finisher, Fast Go, should be kept safe in any race with so many go-forward horses.