Dragon to strike back with vengeance
Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai made the call early that Legendary Dragon would be a Happy Valley horse and the lightly raced gelding returns there with a great chance to win the Hong Kong Exchanges Challenge Cup (1,200m) today.
For one of the infrequent Sunday meetings at Happy Valley, the Jockey Club has programmed two excellent Class One events to close out the day, and the Exchanges Challenge Cup is a race brimful of talented sprinters.
But what the professional Legendary Dragon (Mark du Plessis) has in his favour is just 114 pounds on board, even after the rider puts up an expected one pound overweight, and his unbeaten record at the quirky circuit.
Tried unsuccessfully up the straight at his Hong Kong debut, Legendary Dragon then went to the Valley in February to win twice in a week at this 1,200m course, each time camped behind the speed from a good draw before proving too strong.
Yiu said later that he had tagged Legendary Dragon right off the plane as a Happy Valley specialist but had run him at Sha Tin at the behest of his owner.
Connections then opted for a return to Sha Tin last time, and Legendary Dragon was not disgraced behind Arrived Ahead in finishing fifth on Derby day after being given his chance, but he simply doesn't seem to be the same horse at the bigger, firmer track.
So now he comes back to the scene of the crime with a record of two from two at the Valley and a good weight drop from the impost he carried to win in Class Three two runs ago. He again has a low-end draw and we have to trust that he will get a similar trail behind the speed, even though barrier four doesn't look as uncomplicated as it might seem.
Two of the three drawn under Legendary Dragon, Charles The Great (Jeff Lloyd) and Happy Yeah Yeah (Keith Yeung Ming-lun) also have lighter weights and early speed, so the trick for Du Plessis is how much use is made of them early and how it pans out for his mount.
Still, it would be disappointing if he didn't get into a decent spot - the race looks well run with the likes of Horse Galore, Good Words and Arrived Ahead engaged and coming across from wider out and that should see the runners string out to some extent.
Charles The Great and course specialist Tai Sing Yeh (Olivier Doleuze) look the major dangers.
Tai Sing Yeh has shown himself right back to form with his last two efforts at Happy Valley and Sha Tin, and Doleuze should be able to just put him to sleep in midfield or worse from gate one.
He will be suited by a good tempo and will be hitting the line strongly, despite the weight he concedes to most runners.
The John Moore-trained three-year-old Charles The Great has been responsible for two excellent performances at Happy Valley. First when never out of trouble, much of it his own doing, when he won over this trip two runs back, then he overraced and again struck bother when second over 1,000m behind Good Boy Boy.
Both times he went back from wide draws but moves to a low gate, and we will likely see him racing inside other horses for the first time since he arrived.
The question lies not on his ability, which looks well up to the necessary level, but his race manners and whether he will be comfortable on the inside and whether he will get away in Class One with making as many mistakes as he has been making.
The number of wins Ricky Yiu - who sits fifth behind John Size in the trainers' chase - has racked up this season