Two up-and-coming types the way to go
The judge couldn't separate Cosmic Boom and O'Halo for third last start at Sha Tin and the pair stands out as Triple Trio double bankers in their return bout at the same track on Sunday.
The middle pin marks the first time the two three-year-olds have stepped beyond 1,000m and around a bend, but both seem ready for their assignment - a weak Class Four (1,200m).
Cosmic Boom is typical of his sire Command's progeny - a tidy and no-nonsense racehorse who looks readily adaptable to a range of conditions - so he should take the step up in distance in his stride.
John Moore has sent the gelding to the races on three occasions up the Sha Tin straight for three placings. This time Jeff Lloyd takes over from the suspended Darren Beadman and gets a suitable barrier in five.
While Cosmic Boom has the experience edge, the John Size-trained O'Halo may have an upper hand in terms of upside.
Size sent the New Zealand-bred gelding to the trials six times, and critically, around a right-hand bend once, before producing him for his solid debut. O'Halo's was perhaps the better effort of the pair, given it was his first time out and he made more of the running, while Cosmic Boom sat on his back.
This time Cosmic Boom gets a better draw than his rival, with Douglas Whyte jumping from gate eight on O'Halo, but no matter who is favoured, both rank ahead of a mediocre field, with the hardest part finding extra horses to include.
Both first starters, Cool Bean (Tye Angland) and Cosmo One (Terry Wong Chi-wai), have produced forward trials and can be considered, especially after drawing two and three respectively. Derek Cruz's Cool Bean is the pick of the debutantes, with Supreme Hong Kong (Brett Doyle) and Rocket Proud (Matthew Chadwick) others to weigh up.
The final leg sees the much-maligned Zezao out to prove he is not a one-hit wonder. It took Richard Gibson two starts to get a win out of the erratic type, and it's impossible to wipe the six-year-old's extensive rap sheet entirely from memory, so using him as a banker is for the brave.
He jumps into Class Four with 118 pounds, with Lloyd taking over from Whyte, who remarked after the maiden win that Zezao 'would go away and have a think about things and come back with a bit of confidence, knowing racing is not that bad.'
The gelding will certainly benefit mentally from the run, where he was asked to settle and then squeeze between runners in the run home. He gets a favorable draw (three) in a shallow race and should be in the finish.
A more reliable banking alternative is the Tony Cruz-trained Mega Champion, chasing back-to-back wins. Drawn seven, Matthew Chadwick should be able to get a similar, just-off-the-pace run as last time out.
A likely improver is the Moore-trained Thanksgiving (Lloyd), who has to contend with barrier 10, while Fortune Six (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) may run into a place.
The first leg is a nightmare for punters, as are many Class Fives, and selecting any runner as a banker is a step into the unknown. Me Tsui Yu-sak's Hero's Win has been blocked for a run last two starts and pulled up with blood in his trachea at his last effort.
At the very least, Whyte jumps on board from barrier five and he might have some upside after 11 starts - which is more than can be said for most of the field.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai's Epatant (Callan) is also a young horse open to improvement and has been fired out of wide barriers at his last two starts in an effort to lead. It hasn't worked and he has ended up with impossible tasks, yet stuck on resolutely. The same sort of effort from a better draw (seven) would see him figure.
Mr Award (Howard Cheng Yue-tin), King Of Fish II (Olivier Doleuze) and Newswire Too (Maxime Guyon) have all put in solid recent efforts.