Little Bridge can make it big in TT
Ever since 23/4 lengths separated the top five horses in last month's Jockey Club Sprint, the consensus has been that the parity of the sprinting stocks meant barrier draws would make the difference in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint.
And as it turns out, the Group Two lead-up winner, Little Bridge, has drawn a good marble again and can reprise his performance in Sunday's Group One - the middle leg of an International Day Triple Trio at Sha Tin.
Danny Shum Chap-shing's stable star got the best of the ballot in the Jockey Club Sprint, drawing five to main rival Entrapment's seven. The starting positions look remarkably similar this time, where they have drawn three and five respectively.
Last time Little Bridge was a length in front of Entrapment in the run and it made all the difference. Gerald Mosse was able to dictate terms, while Douglas Whyte was probably further back on Entrapment than planned and his relatively inexperienced horse overraced, forcing him to come three wide earlier than he would have hoped.
Mosse claims his mount still had something in store crossing the line a quarter-length in front and luck in running aside, Little Bridge just might be a better horse than Entrapment. After all, he did finish ahead of him two starts ago in the Premier Bowl as well.
Little Bridge is the banker, but Entrapment has to be included on the strength of his amazing consistency and possible upside.
Hong Kong sprinters have won eight of the last nine runnings of this race and none of the overseas raiders seem overwhelming dangers to the strong home team.
Rocket Man is below his best and Curren Chan's travel complications put some doubt on her. Ruling out the imports leaves the domestic chances and Lucky Nine is the best of the rest. He hasn't raced since an unlucky trip to Japan. The Caspar Fownes-trained four-year-old looked good in a lead-up trial and he has also drawn beautifully in six.
Jockey Club Sprint third-placegetter Admiration is an obvious improver that must be considered.
The value could come from Joy And Fun. He was forced to go back to last from a wide barrier in the Jockey Club Sprint and motored home. Brett Doyle can have him closer from gate seven and be on their heels when they turn. If they go too hard up front he can be right in the finish.
The Hong Kong Vase forms the opening leg of the TT. A 13-horse field helps keep things narrow and probably negates the need for a banker. First in is Dunaden. The Melbourne Cup winner proved he has the turn of foot necessary with his win in the Geelong Cup over the same distance and has been a standout in the mornings.
Japan Cup form is traditionally strong and Trailblazer comes off a good fourth and two more French-trained stayers - Silver Pond and Vadamar - should be included on the ticket.
A Class Three Handicap (1,400m) is a slight come down from Group Ones, but this is the leg which will provide the meat to an expected HK$7 million dividend, boosted by a HK$4 million jackpot. The Andreas Schutz-trained Viva Freedom is the best banking option, courtesy of good form and nice draw (four).
Champagne Days has drawn one and can be forgiven for a last-start failure when knuckling over at the start. Others to include are last-start winner Winning Edge, improving Elegance Klammer and Aladdin Prince.