Cheng and Surfer Boy set to benefit from cut-throat tempo
Surfer Boy will hit the line like he has been towed onto a break by a jet-ski and jockey Howard Cheng Yue-tin can hang 10 past the beer garden when he sweeps to the front as a solid banker play in the final leg of the Happy Valley Triple Trio tomorrow night.
The Devon Handicap (1,000m) has more speed than one of Charlie Sheen's infamous parties, and Surfer Boy should be the biggest beneficiary of a fast tempo, given his recent tactics of dropping back in the field in the early stages.
From barrier nine, Cheng will be able to drop back early without getting cluttered up on the rail, and Surfer Boy should be in a position to swing off the home turn and into the race at the exact moment the tiring front-runners begin to implode.
Those front-runners are likely to include the speedy grey Charity Spirit, who raced better last start when allowed to vie for the lead by Brett Prebble down the Sha Tin straight, and Golden Bauhinia, who is also a naturally speedy galloper capable of leading over 1,000m and who sports blinkers for the first time.
Both those horses are susceptible to being run down on any given day but with high-pressure throughout, are unlikely to be present in the finish with their big weights - especially given that they won't be the only ones keen to charge to the front of the field.
Ever Beauty and Eternal Beauty like to race on the speed, and will need to press forward from gates 10 and 11 in an attempt to manoeuvre themselves into a winning position, and lightweights Ride On The Fire and King Of The Day won't be dawdling out of their ideal inside draws and looking to hand up the rails easily either.
The result could be an all-out six-horse war for the lead, although some riders will surely change tactics and elect to ease out of the front-line trenches.
Meanwhile, Cheng and Surfer Boy can watch it all unfold before them and, if they run their own race, punters can be confident of a top -three spot - especially with the rail in the more swooper-friendly 'A course' position.
Surfer Boy closed best in the speed-dominated race won by Good Boy Boy last time out but was disadvantaged by the late withdrawal of Ride On The Fire at the gates.
The Caspar Fownes-trained runner can burst like a gazelle from the stalls but chose to do it before the race started, and that removed a serious pace challenger to Good Boy Boy and allowed Prebble to dictate and win.
The John Size-trained debutant The Wand is an interesting runner and is also likely to be eased back early from gate eight by Douglas Whyte. The Wand won on debut over this distance at Moonee Valley in Melbourne, motoring late on a yielding track to snag victory as favourite.
Trainer Dennis Yip Chor-hong can also play a major role in the middle leg, with Surfer Boy's stablemate Gurus Dream capable of making a winning debut from an inside draw in the Dorset Handicap (1,200m).
Gurus Dream won his New Zealand maiden by four lengths, and has made an immediate impact at the trials here, catching the attention of Whyte who rides him at his Hong Kong debut.
A dashing recent 1,000m trial win over Blue Caviar in a time of 59.2 seconds confirmed his earlier Happy Valley 1,200m trial victory and places him as a genuine contender first-up off his import mark of 68.
The Fownes-trained topweight Ocean Wide will take some beating, the Size-trained Shining Triumph has untapped ability and can figure and David Hall's shock winner New Glory must also be considered after hitting form last start.
The opening leg gives Many Gains an ideal opportunity to improve on his winning streak, but perhaps Oyster could be the one to cause a boilover for new trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai.
Oyster hasn't raced since leaving Hall's yard after his 1,400m start on January 23, and Chang has freshened him up and brought him back in trip to 1,200m for his first-up assignment under Jeff Lloyd.