Sapelli can topple hotpot Smart Giant
Underrated John Size-trained Sapelli returns to his best course in the Chek Keng Handicap (1,800m) at Sha Tin today and gets his chance to upset Derby-bound favourite Smart Giant.
Sapelli (Douglas Whyte) flies under the radar as an honest type just short of the best around, but there has been nothing at all wrong with how he has been racing. He has just been looking for the right race and he finds it this time.
With three wins from seven starts over the Sha Tin 1,800m, including his career highlight in the Group Three Premier Plate last season beating Mighty High, Sapelli produces his very best at the trip but is starved of opportunity as he hovers around triple figures in the ratings.
Since that Premier Plate, his only chance to run over the Sha Tin 1,800m came earlier this season in the Ladies' Purse when he was too far off a slow speed to win but outfinished the likes of Destined For Glory, Fat Choy Oohlala and Let Me Handle It to get into fourth place.
There was no missing his strong-finishing runs over an insufficient 1,400m thereafter until the firm track and the short trip were just too much for Sapelli on international day behind Captain Sweet.
He comes back from legitimate Class One company to a glorified Class Two, gets his distance, a decent draw and looks nicely placed on his better form.
Pace again looks Sapelli's enemy, with no obvious leader in the race, though Cartoon Fay Fay wears blinkers for the first time and has shown some speed in his only race at 1,400m and his trials in blinkers since. He may take up the running but without much pressure, unless lightly weighted Liberator goes forward to get in and offset his outside draw.
A slow tempo at this trip is not entirely against Sapelli - he has shown before that he can sustain a long run and overcome a modest pace, provided he is able to get into the clear and into his finish before the leaders sprint and provided he is not asked to make up too large a margin.
The John Moore-trained Smart Giant (Darren Beadman) will probably have the advantage of laying up close to the speed and has looked a serious competitor in the four-year-old races coming up, but this is his toughest test, giving away some sizeable chunks of weight to decent horses going well. One of his other main rivals will be another horse originally with the Moore yard as a Derby hopeful - Carthage (Eddy Lai Wai-ming).
He drops sharply in grade from his sound effort in the Jockey Club Cup behind Hong Kong's best middle-distance horses but also drops to the bottom of the weights.
His only disappointing effort this season was when fourth to Smart Giant over this trip in October, but he has a significant weight turnaround and should offer a competitive threat in an open race.
Likewise from that race, the Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Touch (Matthew Chadwick) meets Smart Giant a lot better and should be a fitter proposition as that was Beauty Touch's first run here and he ran keenly.
A winner of three from four in France, Beauty Touch will likely be heading for the Derby, too, and he will meet Smart Giant on level terms there so connections would be hoping he can give him a race in receipt of 21 pounds in weight.
Smart Giant has looked a serious competitor in the four-year-old races coming up, but this is his toughest test
The prize money, in HK dollars, Sapelli has earned for his connections from his 45 starts