Joyful night awaits TT followers
Douglas Whyte jumped on Joyful Joyful to lift the gelding to his first win earlier this season, and Triple Trio players will be hoping the champion jockey can extract the best from the Almond Lee-trained sprinter again at Happy Valley tomorrow night.
The TT carries a sizeable jackpot of HK$6.2 million after not being won last week and, with an estimated $11 million dividend, there will be plenty to be cheerful about if Joyful Joyful can salute as a banker in the opening leg.
Joyful Joyful has returned a stronger, faster horse this season and, with five runs under his belt in two months, Lee is obviously happy with the way he has been copping his workload. The five-year-old arrived on a rating of 70 after one win in Melbourne as a two-year-old when trained by David Hayes, but his subsequent fourth placings behind the likes of Group One winner All American and Magic Millions winner Augusta Proud probably had more to do with the handicapper's inflated opinion of the horse than his debut victory down the Flemington straight on a yielding track.
Perhaps the gelding didn't acclimatise upon arriving at this time last year, or perhaps he just needed to drop back to a suitable mark in the ratings, but whatever the reason, Joyful Joyful appears to be right on song and will take a power of beating from gate three.
Whyte, who is replacing Keith Yeung Ming-lun, should get a lovely cart into the race behind the leaders, have little trouble switching him off heels entering the straight and be able to get the best out of the horse in the sprint home. Diamond Rainbow will give plenty of cheek from barrier one, while Asian Citrus and Caga Boy should run bold races, but perhaps Joyful Joyful's biggest danger comes from new arrival Sky Mascot, who has drawn next door in gate four and will be tracking him throughout.
The key may well be if the John Moore-trained three-year-old jumps away with the field at his first start at the city circuit but, assuming he will start quickly, the flashy chestnut is rated a big threat.
Sky Mascot has been tuned up with two runs down the Sha Tin straight 1,000m and is now ready for the longer journey, although whether he is ready for the Valley remains the burning question.
Whyte will also play a pivotal role in the middle leg on Fresh Air, who like Joyful Joyful has started his season in terrific form - chalking up a win with Whyte and third placing with Howard Cheng Yue-tin from his two starts at the Valley.
In fact, Whyte was on the gelding for his only win last season also, and is two from two on the Me Tsui Yu-sak-trained runner, who has climbed from 52 to 67 in his seven career.
Last-start winner Natural Flame looks an obvious danger at the bottom of the weights with Jeff Lloyd in the irons, but barrier 12 may mean he has to settle back this time or risk being caught in a speed battle with little likelihood of crossing Bet On Me Solar Up or Mi Reilly, who have drawn to his inside.
Those likely leaders make good appeal and should be boxing on well into the straight and giving the remainder of the field something to chase on the 'C+3' course.
Matthew Chadwick returns from suspension and will get a great chance to capitalise on Regency Winner's good draw by taking the box seat and getting first-crack at the front-runners if they carve each other up early.
The final leg is chock full of quality Class One gallopers and will be a true test to separate the consolation claimers from the jackpot winners.
Flying Supreme is attractively placed and Greg Cheyne will give him every possible hope from barrier four, while Whyte's mount Ride With The Wind and Darren Beadman's White Jade also look well positioned on the speed map and will be highly competitive.
In-form Happy Tumbler drops back from an 1,800m win and will be hitting the line hard, but it may be too late to catch leaders Dream Team and Great Achievement on the notoriously leaderish course.
Douglas Whyte has a good record this campaign at the Valley. His winning strike rate is: 19%