Ho Ho Life ticks all the right boxes
In-form Dennis Yip Chor-hong will use a tried-and-tested formula for Ho Ho Life, who can bounce back into Class Three off a two-week break and a step up in trip to win at Happy Valley tomorrow night.
Yip is mixing it with the big guns with just over half the season gone. He is third in the trainers' battle with 27 wins behind former title holders John Size (43) and Tony Cruz (33), and his last-start winner looks a stand-out in the opening leg of the Triple Trio.
Just over a year ago Ho Ho Life won back-to-back races with Yip using the same progression from 1,650m to tomorrow night's 1,800m.
With the same jockey in the saddle, the incomparable Douglas Whyte, Ho Ho Life gets a dream draw (three) and a weak Class Three to strike.
Ho Ho Life has battled a tendon problem and lameness issues this season, but the five-year-old seems to have moved beyond them, judging by the way he sprinted at the end of 1,650m last start.
Whyte took the horse back in the field, and when he rounded the turn, Ho Ho Life quickened nicely to put himself in the race and scored by a convincing 1 1/2 lengths.
All four of Ho Ho Life's wins have been at the city track and, while three of them were over the extended mile, 14 days between runs indicate he will be up to the mark over 1,800m.
Next in is Let's Goal, whose biggest obstacle is barrier 10, with Italian newcomer Umberto Rispoli engaged by Cruz to ride.
Rispoli's experience riding the 'C+3' last week on the first night of his stint will stand him in good stead, as will the rail back in the normal 'A' configuration and the fair 1,800m starting point.
Danny Shum Chap-shing's Owners' Glory (Tye Angland) is dour and suited by the trip, but has had to contend with double-figure draws at his last three starts and has been snagged back to the rear before plugging home.
Before that, his last win was over the course and distance when Darren Beadman had him closer in the run from gate eight. From barrier six maybe Angland can try something similar.
The race looks like it will be genuinely run, with on-pacers Handsome Batchelor (Derek Leung Ka-chun) and Glory Of India (Jeff Lloyd) drawn low, and maybe they can give some cheek.
The middle pin is an extended-ratings bracket (110-85) Class One over 1,650m, with plenty of seemingly out-of-form horses dropping from high-grade races to compete at the Valley.
One of those is Cruz's bold front-runner Penglai Xianzi (Matthew Chadwick), who was outclassed in the Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m).
Back to his 'home ground', he has won twice over the course and distance and he can return to his favoured high-balling tactics and give his rivals something to catch.
Gate nine is a concern, but Chadwick should be able to get across to a spot where he can dictate, with no obvious front-runners drawn below.
The race gives Peter Ho Leung's Mr Bond (Gerald Mosse) a chance to press his claims for the 1010 Million Challenge, which reaches its finale tomorrow night. The five-year-old has three victories over the course and distance and sits four points behind series leader Super Plus, with a win worth 15 points.
Longwah Supreme (Olivier Doleuze) drops back dramatically in grade, and while there is a distance query, on class he has to be included.
At the other end of the spectrum is Holiday Sun (Howard Cheng Yu-tin), who has snuck in as the lowest-rated runner but could steal a place with a feather weight from barrier one.
In the final leg, a Class Three (85-60) over 1,650m, Elegance Klammer (Neil Callan) goes in as a banker, reluctantly.
A horse of his class has to win eventually and punters thought it would be last start, but he ended up three-deep facing the breeze. This time he gets gate five and a soft looking race.
Flying Chapparral (Keith Yeung Ming-lun) is next and also consider Adoration (Whyte), Flying Supreme (Mosse) and Regency Winner (Chadwick).
The winning strike rate for Dennis Yip and Douglas Whyte at the city course this season