Better gate and blinkers can work the magic for Surfer Boy
Surfer Boy sports some new gear and is in prime position to catch a winning wave all the way to the post in the middle leg of tomorrow night's Happy Valley Triple Trio - the Class Four Gloucester Handicap (1,200m).
Trainer Dennis Yip Chor-hong has thrown the blinkers on the Dolphin Street gelding in trackwork and is pleased with what he has seen.
Jockey Howard Cheng Yue-tin bounced back to winning form at Sha Tin on Sunday after a long run of 89 outs, and the rider would have been grinning from ear to ear when he found out he had drawn gate two on Surfer Boy.
From that draw, there will be no danger Surfer Boy will be left posted three wide as he was last start under Gerald Mosse and, with good pace from Mosse's Tony Cruz-trained mount Space Race to his inside, there is every chance the four-year-old will end up in the box-seat position or two back on the rails if All The Winners can cross to lead from barrier nine. That will place Cheng and Surfer Boy in a similar position when they were victorious in December and, providing they get a clear passage away from the fence at the turn, Surfer Boy looks a rock-solid banker.
Space Race makes appeal from the good draw at the horse's Valley debut, especially if the three-year-old can show the same early toe he did on debut at Sha Tin when he led them up in the race won by Carry The Zeal.
All The Winners is a consistent Valley performer and cannot be discounted from gate nine, although with the early work likely to take its toll over the concluding stages, he is harder to like on a win ticket.
Douglas Whyte has stuck with the Caspar Fownes-trained Track Lightning and the pair should be more competitive than last start when the horse hopped out of his starting stall slowly and was kept on the back foot throughout in his Valley debut. He will improve for the experience and must be included by even the bravest of TT players.
The first leg provides Healthy Manner with an opportunity to punch his way out of the bottom grade for trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing and jockey Darren Beadman, who has built a great record on the horse.
Beadman has ridden the four-year-old twice and extracted Healthy Manner's two best efforts by leading on the gelding for a dominant 41/4-length win over 2,200m on November 10, before a close neck second to Solar Wonder over the same distance at his last start.
The horse has not been quite so effective over the 1,800m course, but nor has he had Beadman in the irons, or led, at any of his runs over the shorter staying route.
That leading factor certainly looks to be key to his chances this time and, from barrier four, punters who make him a banker will breathe a collective sigh of relief if he can find the lead. In a race devoid of any natural front-running opposition, Beadman will no doubt be looking to assert his authority early and, even if he is hounded early by connections trying new tactics, the master Australian rider will not let them bustle him out of contention with any cut-throat tactics.
Winning Pal, Healthy Contender, Cover Boy and Green Glory are all capable of figuring among the placegetters, whether or not they can real in Healthy Manner's early advantage.
The final leg is a competitive mile event with a number of winning chances and even more place hopes, but combinations based around the consistent Romancing Tamar should not go too far wrong.
Greg Cheyne has enjoyed a successful run of winners in recent weeks and will make no mistakes from the inside draw in ensuring the Tony Millard-trained gelding is highly competitive in the finish.
For the record
Dennis Yip and Howard Cheng will be hoping Surfer Boy can help improve their winning strike rate at the Valley from its current: 6%