Hei Hei Posh seems a cut above the rest
An inside draw, an in-form jockey and the most upside of any horse in the race make Danny Shum Chap-shing's Hei Hei Posh the best banker in tomorrow's HK$1.7 million jackpot-boosted Triple Trio at Happy Valley.
The three-year-old has made steady race-to-race improvement in his first four starts, capped by a solid run-on third at his first try over the extended mile at the city track.
Back over the same course and distance, he can continue his progression and dispatch a moderate Class Four field in the final leg. From gate three, Zac Purton should have Hei Hei Posh where he wants, probably one off the rails and midfield, with a genuine tempo almost guaranteed.
Billion (Jacky Tong Chi-kit) should string them along as usual, while Bumper Strike (Douglas Whyte) and Magnanimous (Andreas Suborics) will roll forward from wide gates and provide pressure.
All three of those pacesetters should be considered as place hopes, as they are all honest and experienced customers who won't overdo it in front. Still, the race should be there for a horse that settles back and swoops, such as Shum's youngster.
Purton replaces the injured Darren Beadman, whom Shum built a deadly early-season combination with his Class Four and Five horses. Purton might now fill that void and he has a decent record on Shum's horses as well, having ridden four from 25 for the trainer and finished in the top four 14 times. The Australian is riding in career-best form, a double at Sha Tin on Sunday took him to 36 wins and he has 14 victories at the last 10 meetings.
The two horses jumping from inside Hei Hei Posh are threats, Private Road (Derek Leung Ka-chun) and Bespoke Master (Alvin Ng Ka-chun), courtesy of the ideal draws on the 'B' course.
The TT opens with a Class Four over 1,800m, and Richard Gibson's Easy Gold (Olivier Doleuze) is the solid pick as a banker, despite stepping up to the distance for the first time. Easy Gold came to Gibson at the start of the season on a mark of 23 and won four from his first five starts. He is getting closer to his ceiling but might not be done yet. He has been placed over 1,650m at his last two and the extra 150m shouldn't bother a horse that seems to relax well.
There is a massive pace query, with no leaders to speak of and a glut of hold-up types, so Doleuze might consider taking a handier position from gate five.
Purton might roll the dice and attack from barrier nine on Mount Victory, which would put him in play. He has led with some success from that sort of starting position before.
Others to include are last-start winner Industrial Legend (Mark du Plessis) and possibly Euphemism (Tim Clark), who is coming off a career-best second at Sha Tin.
The lack of speed hurts the chances of How Wonderful (Whyte) and Victory Mascot (Brett Prebble) - neither horse musters early pace and they will need luck.
The middle pin is wide open and barrier one might give the edge to the Tony Millard-trained Oriental Courser (Umberto Rispoli) in a Class Four over 1,200m.
After an impressive course and distance victory, Oriental Courser missed the start when eighth in the International Jockeys' Challenge night and has since had a let-up.
Caga Spirit (Clark) joins the Gibson yard and has been the subject of support at his last three starts, so he cannot be ignored from gate three. Others to consider are Excellent Win (Ben So Tik-hung), Winsome (Prebble) and Brilliant One (Eddie Lai Wai-ming).
The winning strike rate for Zac Purton and Danny Shum, who have combined 25 times this season