HAPPY Valley specialist Conticasta has had a long and fruitful career in Hong Kong and there is still a win left in this hardy nine-year-old who attempts to make it two on end at the city track tonight. Conticasta was a winner on his local debut at the Valley when scoring at 30-1 for now Macau-based Declan Murphy and he has done well for connections since - not least when powering home from well back at his last start under Damien Oliver to win comfortably over 1,800 metres.
Oliver sticks with last-start winner Catalan Gold, prepared by his retaining trainer of next season David Hayes, while the Conticasta ride goes the way of in-form John Marshall who is having a great spell during his short, late-season stint.
While Catalan Gold looms as a threat, the Valley-loving Conticasta may still have what it takes to win this one. The Classes Two and Three event is over 2,200 metres but at this advanced stage of his career, that is not an insurmountable problem for Conticasta. He has been kept in good shape by trainer Fownes since that win and the stable has been sending in the winners with refreshing regularity.
The good news for Fownes last week was the Licensing Committee's decision to allow the trainer to retain nephew Wendyll Woods and nothing would please the 15-year veteran of the local scene more than to break the 30-winner mark for the season. He goes in to tonight's meeting with 29 on the board and said: 'It's not that I specifically set myself targets for the season, but you know roughly the figure you would like to reach with what you have at your disposal.
'Getting 30 winners has usually seemed to me to be a good benchmark when judging how your season has gone. We have had a couple of ups and downs this season, but generally it has gone well. 'Yes, it would be the best way to end with a good even 30 on the board. Or maybe one or two more.' Australian ace Marshall has notched five winners to date in his short stay and is equally hungry for a few more. 'I had 25 in all of last season and that lasted nine months. I've had five already and it seems as if I have just arrived. It has gone very quickly, but it has certainly been enjoyable. 'I have some fairly good rides over the last two days and I would like to think I might snare a couple more before I head back to Australia,' he said.
Conticasta certainly rates a live chance for both Fownes and Marshall to increase their respective tallies, but there are other chances in this entertaining nightcap which has attracted a full field of 14 runners. Claimer Vickie C. W. Choi, who has had a remarkable season, has a solid chance on an outside ride for trainer Stephen S. L. Leung.
Choi, who rode a peach of a race to win on Chop-Chop on Saturday night, partners topweight Sky Coast who also has no qualms about running at Happy Valley. He has had some top riders on his back in recent outings, but Choi won't let the side down and this combined handicap looks a shade easier than some he has tackled recently.
Wang Tak Supreme led them a merry dance under Greg Childs in mid-March and scored by a short head over this trip, but this is harder.