In-form Shum can get the best out of Spirit
Trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing has come out running this season to be sitting third on the championship ladder and a switch to his in-form yard may be just the move to get the best from Charity Spirit in the Lok Sin Tong Cup (1,000m) today.
With win tallies of 19, 21 and 18 for his most recent seasons, Shum's performances had fallen well below what was expected after he burst on to the training scene some seasons ago with 130 successes in his first three years.
But he seems to have come back to his best, with headliners in the yard like Little Bridge and some highly-promising younger horses, and has charged to 18 wins with well over half the season to come.
And the magic of a change to a winning team could be what Charity Spirit (Gerald Mosse) is looking for, after the grey's 12 starts for five placings since landing here last term for Gary Ng Ting-keung. Last Wednesday night, Shum sent out another sprinter, Turf Magic, having his first run for the yard. Turf Magic was able to put a few moderate recent efforts behind him to finish off strongly into third in a performance like his old self.
If Shum can conjure the same from Charity Spirit, then today may just be the day that he can break his maiden status and put behind him a record that reads worse than it should.
He has been narrowly touched off when second behind some handy ones in Eternal Beauty, Golden Bauhinia and most recently Flying Colours, and there have been several occasions when Charity Spirit's performances have been mitigated by bad luck, none more so than his latest outing at Happy Valley.
Runners went everywhere on the first turn that night in an incident that earned two jockeys careless riding bans, and Charity Spirit was one of the main sufferers, so punters can simply draw a line through that run.
Key to his chances could be a shift of venue for Charity Spirit to Sha Tin, after having 10 of his 12 runs to date at Happy Valley.
Probably the grey's best effort came down the straight in Class Three, when grabbed late in a race by Eternal Beauty, who was in great form at that time and getting weight off him.
Despite drawing low, Charity Spirit has abundant pace to head towards the outside of the track if required, as does the horse next to him, with which Mosse is very familiar, Space Race (Ben So Tik-hung).
Tony Cruz has opted for a the claim of So over the skill and experience of Mosse on Space Race, but the gelding has been consistent over the straight course, missing a place only once in eight attempts.
Down the bottom of the handicaps, lightly-raced Ponderosa (Alvin Ng Ka-chun) and Castle Hero (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) will give the more experienced sprinters plenty to think about too.
Castle Hero won a poor standard Class Four very easily before looking to have his chance behind Five Clubs, when Space Race beat him home, but he has only run three times so there may be more improvement.
Ponderosa is well above average and would win this if he reproduced his hollow Class Four win in May first-up from a break, especially with only 108 pounds on board, but he has to be taken on trust with his record of physical problems.
He bled winning last time out and has since had throat surgery in September.
The number of wins Danny Shum, who is having a stellar start to the season, has racked up