Athenium can bounce back in his first attempt at the Valley
The Sean Woods-trained Athenium has the firepower to overcome his opposition at his first run at Happy Valley tomorrow night in the final leg of the Triple Trio - the Connaught Handicap (1,650m).
Athenium boasts a class edge on his Happy Valley counterparts and comes off a third placing behind Jacobee over the Sha Tin mile and a luckless 10th behind Lucky Bravo over an unsuitably short 1,400m last start.
The big factor to suggest that Athenium is ready to produce his best form, however, comes from his two most recent Valley barrier trials, the latest of which he completed on January 8, finishing just behind Let Me Handle It in the 1,200m heat.
Woods has educated his Arena gelding around the tight circuit as best he can without racing him at the city circuit, and Athenium also completed a fine hit-out 1?lengths behind London China Town on October 9.
Let Me Handle It was an impressive winner of the final event at Sha Tin last Sunday, and six-time winner London China Town has proven himself a classy sprinter, so both practice results bode well for Athenium, who meets a suitable field at his first try at the Valley.
Gerald Mosse has picked up the mount, with regular rider Olivier Doleuze out on suspension, and, from barrier six, the fellow Frenchman should be able to slide across to a one-off position midfield.
The negatives of the 'C' course rail position are far outweighed by the positive pace factors, and the faster the lightweight Splendid Champion and widely drawn Euro Swiftly go in front, the better for Athenium at the finish.
Others that could press for the lead if they choose are Brett Prebble on Arion Of Chiu Ton, and Neil Callan on Cars King Prawn, though from their good barriers, they are more likely to camp on the leaders' backs if the opportunity presents.
Athenium and Legend Express can be well placed behind these, and it is the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained galloper who must be rated as the big danger and ideal dual banker play in the TT.
Legend Express comes off an authoritative last-start win over this course at his first start at Happy Valley, and the Encosta De Lago gelding is well placed to repeat that performance from the ideal barrier four.
The middle leg looks an ideal opportunity for Supreme De Union to claim his first victory over the 1,000m course in a race that is packed with early speed horses.
Jeff Lloyd should have little trouble claiming the prime trailing position on the David Ferraris-trained galloper behind a wall of leaders, including Secret Of Winning, Ever Beauty, Windicator Returns and Golden Bauhinia.
Supreme De Union gets in with a featherweight 114 pounds and will be enormously hard to beat with the senior jockey riding and the blinkers remaining on.
The Woods-trained Royal Doctor will also benefit from the hot early tempo and Mosse, who has again drawn gate six, will also ensure his galloper gets a good trail into the race on the home turn.
Of the front-runners, Windicator Returns and Ever Beauty make the most appeal of holding on for a place, while Supreme Taiji, who jumps from gate two, should also be considered carefully in a trio scenario.
The opening leg provides the John Moore-trained Surrounded with a chance to step beyond a mile for the first time and the War Chant gelding looks well placed as a banker play in the 1,800m Harcourt Handicap.
Darren Beadman will have his work cut out to slot into a good position from barrier nine, but the wide draw provides him with a couple of options if things don't fall in his lap in the first 250m.
Punters shouldn't rule out some jump and run tactics, or a mid-race move, with both sure to have unpredictable effect on the race as a whole.
Back on track
Sean Woods, who has been finding form recently, has sent out 208 runners for a winning strike rate of: 5%