Gear change can do the trick for Nice Folks
Nice Folks has been primed by trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai to step up to the mile and claim his first win at Sha Tin on Sunday, and is a top banker play in the final leg of the Triple Trio, the Armada Handicap.
The four-year-old Ishiguru gelding is on the quick back-up after an exciting barrier trial performance last Friday wearing side winkers for the first time, and from gate five, Weichong Marwing will ensure his mount is within striking range throughout.
Nice Folks went head and head to the line with Norman Invader in a 1,200m heat on the all-weather track, stopping the clock at 71 seconds after being squeezed by Marwing down the stretch to pick up the front-runner passing the line.
The New Zealand import was a two-time winner in his homeland at distances of 1,200m and 1,400m, wearing blinkers for both his victories. Chang has gone for a different variation of the head-gear for the horse's first crack at the mile, but the trial effort suggested the side winkers will produce the desired result and get Nice Folks concentrating on the job at hand.
A genuine early tempo should also work to Nice Folk's advantage, with the in-form front-runner Dr Win scooting forward from gate three, and Dragon Victory likely to be scrubbed along early from 13.
Douglas Whyte slotted into a prime position on Double Dragon at his latest start and, from gate six, will no doubt try to do the same, but if Marwing is on his toes he should be able to stalk that runner, a likely favourite, throughout the race.
Double Dragon is a highly consistent galloper and makes an ideal proposition for a dual banker play, but perhaps the biggest danger to the pair will present itself late in the race, not swooping down the outside, but boxing on in front.
Dragon Victory could be suited by his wide draw, as it will give him time to muster some early speed and roll to the front at his own leisure under apprentice Keith Yeung Ming-lun and, with 110 pounds on his back, the Almond Lee-trained runner will give plenty of cheek out in front, along with his light-weight partner in crime, Dr Win.
Greg Cheyne is not one to lose his head in setting the early speed, and while he will no doubt be keen to take up a forward position on the John Size-trained galloper, he is not going to be cut-throat with the apprentice early.
Ambitious Dragon will be building a head of steam under his 133 pounds when entering the straight, but, in giving the leaders a few lengths and plenty of weight, he may be hitting top gear too late to make an impression in the finish.
The opening leg provides Zac Purton with a good opportunity to build on his excellent record for Size on front-runner Bumper Strike, who was softened up over the mile last time, but will appreciate an easier time in front over the 2,000m.
Yeung was taken on for the lead throughout last start, and, despite beating off his on-pace rivals with a cheeky kick entering the straight, the early work took its toll and he was swamped by the run-on horses late in the piece.
Howard Cheng Yue-tin and Top Dragon will have first call on the lead from their inside draw but, with a clean break from gate nine, Bumper Strike should be able to sit outside the leader going out of the home straight the first time.
Goodview Successor is dangerous at this trip with Whyte in the irons, but will need to overcome an awkward outside draw to pinch early cover, while Private Road cannot be ruled out in a trio scenario from barrier four and Surrounded should appreciate the step up in distance for trainer John Moore.
Punters can pin their hopes on Kingston Spartacus in the middle leg, with Maxime Guyon hopping on board for the first time from an ideal barrier two.
Finezza is the class horse in the field and chased strongly last start, and, despite 130 pounds and the widest gate, he should not be ruled out as a danger with Purton in the saddle.
Last-start winner Champagne Days, the ever-threatening Sohna, Caspar Fownes' untapped talent Classic Boy and Brett Prebble's mount Divine Kid also make appeal as candidates for the top three spots in an open event.
Time is everything
The Michael Chang-trained Nice Folks trialled well last Friday on the dirt over 1,200m to clock: 71sec