Sean Woods' progressive galloper Healthy Wealthy bids to notch his fourth victory this season and has all the right credentials to take out the Lusitano Challenge Cup at Sha Tin this afternoon over 1,800 metres. There were clear excuses for Healthy Wealthy when he competed as a short-priced favourite over the 1,800 metres course at Happy Valley on March 3, when he was caught wide, without cover, for the duration of the race after starting from gate nine.
Taking the torrid run he endured into account, the son of former European champion miler Desert Prince did well to beat more than half the field home by finishing fifth. The switch to Sha Tin will make it easier for substitute rider Torsten Mundry to give Healthy Wealthy every chance to regain the winning momentum that propelled his rating earlier this season from 54 to his current mark of 84.
One of the main threats is expected to come from Tony Millard-trained Five Grains, who is yet to miss the frame from two starts over today's course and distance. The Irish-bred galloper hit the line well over 1,400 metres when fourth to My Choice here on Derby day at his latest appearance. He is well weighted with 114 pounds and, from gate five, should have every chance to figure in the finish.
The John Size-Shane Dye combination has decent claims with Perfetto, who won over 1,800 metres here in October, when he sustained a powerful late finishing burst to defeat Songs Of Praise by a short-head. Perfetto meets that rival five pounds better this time around, and although he may now be on his handicap mark, is still capable of hitting the frame.
Last-start winner Songs Of Praise was second past the post in a Class Two race on the all-weather track but awarded the race in the stewards' room on March 27, following a sustained objection. His form throughout the season has been sound and, remembering he has only missed the frame once from five starts over 1,800 metres at Sha Tin, he is difficult to discard.
There have been positive signs for Peter Ho's Celestial Steel, who displayed marked improvement on his second local start last weekend when sixth to Wealthy Treasure over 1,400 metres. There is every reason to suggest that the step up in distance will be a bonus and he is a value chance to keep on the safe side.
Similarly, there was slight improvement shown from California Prince on his second local outing back in mid-February. He still finished in 10th position but just over five lengths from winner Lucky Paradise. He should benefit with the extra furlong here and, if there is any support in the market, is worth including.
Bear Dominance is the third entry in this field having his third local start but his form has not been encouraging enough to suggest he could trouble the main contenders. Dendranthema Love has finished no closer than 12th from four local starts and the signs have not been good enough to give him stronger claims in this event.
Celebration has been in sound form recently but has failed to hit the frame from four starts over the course and distance. Derek Cruz has opted to re-apply the visor to Celebration, who remains competitively handicapped and cannot be ruled out of contention.
The drop in grade is a bonus for Floral Dynamite but from two attempts over the trip has failed to make an impression. This is certainly an easier test but he has left the impression he has reached his limit in the ratings for the time being.
John Moore's Sunseen also takes the drop in class and a case can be made for his potential improvement this afternoon. This will be Sunseen's third run back this term and he should be nearing peak condition following a year off the track. He handles any going and this does look a much easier test.
Kiddy Sing has fallen in the ratings from 97 to 92 this season from five unplaced runs. He needs to show a good deal more before being recommended.
The blinkers have been removed from Ambitious Tycoon, who has generally been better suited to the Sha Tin mile where he has scored both local victories. He may need further relief in the ratings before being followed.
The debut of Connoisseur's Love on February 28 when finishing 12th to Green Channel was a fair performance, and he should make improvement from that outing. He did win over 2,055 metres at Doncaster in the United Kingdom so the step up in trip today is suitable. He would be difficult to recommend based on his one HK run but may be one to watch for later.
Meanwhile, Danny Shum Chap-shing should have a good day at the office as two of his promising juveniles - Lucky Port (race five) and Triumphant Unicorn (race eight) - bid to keep their unbeaten records intact.
Lucky Port is a brother to former local champion Indigenous and looks a highly promising galloper on the strength of his 31/4-length win against fellow griffins on debut over 1,200 metres. He strikes older opposition for the first time, but is loaded with potential and will relish the move up to 1,400 metres.
Triumphant Unicorn sticks to the straight course where he bolted home on Derby day when winning by 33/4 lengths.
The obvious danger comes from David Hayes-trained Always Flying, who should start a short-priced favourite given he clocked 55.8 seconds when winning his only local start.
Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year
Sha Tin District
Track and Field Athletics