Upgrading the one for bumper TT
Olivier Doleuze can play the role of Santa Claus for Triple Trio punters at the Happy Valley meeting on Thursday night, and could be delivering a HK$9 million dividend to punters in his red and white suit on the Andreas Schutz-trained Upgrading.
Upgrading makes appeal as one of the few obvious banker plays in the final leg, in an extremely difficult set of TT races, and it would be no surprise to see the exotic produce one of the biggest dividends of the season.
Doleuze knows his charge well, having won on the Daggers Drawn gelding three starts back over the Happy Valley 1,650m course, and the flamboyant Frenchman will be keen to add to that success from barrier two.
Schutz's horse comes into this race after a 1 1/2-length third to Absolute Hedge last start and, despite his 129 pound impost, promises to be a leading contender again from the ideal gate.
Doleuze can manoeuvre him to a strong position early in the race behind a solid tempo, which looks likely to come from last-start winner Record High to his immediate outside, and Easy Ahead and Team Work from wider out.
Upgrading will be well positioned on the fence turning for home, and Doleuze should be able to shimmy up the rail to claim the prize easier than old Saint Nick down the proverbial chimney.
Last-start Sha Tin winner Kyara makes appeal at his first start at the city track and with a step up to 1,650m. The David Ferraris-trained son of Pins can also be well positioned handy to the speed form gate six, and looks to have further scope to climb the ratings, going by his win over 1,400m.
Likewise, Legend Express makes his first start at Happy Valley for trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai. He will strip fitter for his first two runs and was tuned-up with a barrier trial win last week down the straight 1,000m at Sha Tin. Moon Chaser and Green Jacket also make appeal, as do the potential front-runners who will no doubt hold a distinct advantage with the C+3 rail position in use.
The middle leg looks a good opportunity for Double Luck to get back in the winner's stall after steadily dropping back in the ratings over the last season and early part of this preparation.
Tye Angland takes over from Gerald Mosse and the Manfred Man Ka-leung-trained runner will appreciate the switch back to the city course at which he has chalked up two prior victories.
His last win came way back in February 2009, but the O'Reilly gelding won off a mark of 85 that day and has only recently crept below that benchmark after a string of minor placings slowed his descent back to Class Three.
Mr Celerity will be well found in the market after his strong form at Sha Tin, but barrier 12 is a formidable challenge for a Valley debutant and the Fusaichi Pegasus gelding and jockey Maxime Guyon will need to produce their best to claim the major slice of the prize money.
The speedy Our Pegasus and lightly raced Take The Rap can figure among the top three spots, as can Penglai Xianxi - who unlike Mr Celerity - has come up with the inside gate for his first Valley assignment.
The opening leg is as tricky as the final two, but the more advantageous draw should see High Luck among the action when the whips are cracking.
John Moore and Darren Beadman have been frustrated by poor barriers with this horse in recent times, but the Lujain gelding has still managed to punch on and record some promising results after tough runs.
From gate six, the resuming Beadman should ensure his charge gets a good trail midfield and, with just 118 pounds on his back, High Luck should prove too strong in the finish of the Yik Yam Handicap (1,650m).
Thursday's Triple Trio jackpot for the Christmas meeting at the city course is expected to reach a mouth-watering: HK$9m