Hammer far from Lucky as he nears win
A tough night to find horses to follow on Wednesday at Happy Valley, with what was a very plain set of races uninhabited by any of what might normally be referred to as promising horses but the stewards' report highlighted one winner in waiting.
Apprentice Alvin Ng Ka-chun was questioned closely about his ride on Lucky Hammer in the third event, when the stipes felt the junior rider could have been more vigorous on the four-year-old in the final 200m.
That in itself says something but the investigation of Lucky Hammer's performance also noted the trouble that he ran into during the 1,000m Class Three before he was seen getting home strongly in the final 100m.
It was Lucky Hammer's sixth outing since the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained gelding arrived, and he has shed eight rating points in that time and is verging on making an impact after his past two outings.
His run prior to Wednesday night may not look great on paper - 10th to Santa Fe Sun - but it was much better than it looked after racing very wide from an outside draw.
Lucky Hammer was a four-time winner from seven sprint starts in Queensland - three times on an artificial surface and once on rain-affected turf - and it remains notable that he was blinkered in all his races there but the head gear has yet to appear on the horse here in either his track work or a race.
A race later, we saw the first signs of life from former Newmarket winner Helen's Choice. The Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained four-year-old was one start for one win in Britain but has been dreadful in seven double figure finishes since his arrival in late 2012 - until Wednesday night.
The hood came off, Helen's Choice was ridden quietly by Derek Leung Ka-chun from a wider draw, unlike many of his runs here when the gelding has been positioned more forward. It seemed to work, with Helen's Choice finding the line strongly to wind up just behind the placegetters and that looks the signal that the bay, who has dropped 20 points in the ratings from his start point, might have turned the acclimatisation corner.