Three tricky contests at Happy Valley don’t offer much in the way of excitement for Triple Trio players but a switch to the smaller track and a potent jockey-trainer combination point to Short Squeeze as a decent banker in the final leg tomorrow night.
Short Squeeze won on the final day of last season and continued the good run of jockey Zac Purton on horses trained by Benno Yung Tin-pang.
In Yung’s first two seasons based at Sha Tin, Purton’s strike rate for the stable was 20 per cent as he rode a total of 23 winners for the yard.
This term ,the pair have been slower to get moving, but a win on Saturday to All My Gain kicked things off for this season and after a tough first-up showing at Sha Tin, Short Squeeze will benefit from a better draw and a step up to 1,650m at the Valley.
Ridden by Keith Yeung Ming-lun, Short Squeeze was left posted three wide with no cover over 1,400m but fought on bravely, showing plenty of stamina to finish sixth.
Since then Purton has been aboard in a trial and much of his work and finds a race where the setup looks good from barrier four.
With the rail in the C position, Short Squeeze will be able to slot in behind what should be a genuine tempo, sitting close enough to strike after turning.
As for the others, Nash Rawiller seems to have found the key to Photon Willie and he should run another good race after a win last start over the course and distance.
It took 19 local starts for Photon Willie to break through for his first win since arriving from Australia, so there might be some scepticism on how the six-year-old will handle a six-point hike in the handicaps.
The Paul O’Sullivan-trained import will be carrying top weight in Class Three and Nash Rawiller will have to navigate his way to a one-off spot from barrier 12, but the horse has been rejuvenated this term and he has indicated a return to Class Two could be just around the corner.
Some of that improvement has to be credited to Rawiller, who was one-from-one on Photon Willie when the son of High Chaparral was trained by Chris Waller in Australia. As well as the breakthrough last start, Rawiller rode Photon Willie in his other two starts this term, a close first-up third at Sha Tin before a second to Danny Shum Chap-shing’s progressive young prospect Circuit Land.
Of the others take Bullish Smart (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) and Strong Foundation (Brett Prebble).
In the first leg there is the fun of having a Class Five to pick through, where Choice Exchequer (Rawiller) returns to the track where he seems better suited and gets the benefit for a low draw for the first time this season after five decent efforts.
The 1,800m looks suitable after runs over 1,800m and 2,000m at the more demanding bigger track and Rawiller can control the race from the front.
Oxford Charley (Zac Purton), who won his only race over the course and distance and was a narrow second when dropping into Class Five for the first time four starts back, looks the obvious danger on paper and is a great double banker option.
Bornfree (Douglas Whyte) has run home behind Southchina Command at his last two, has been gifted another low draw and should enjoy the step up to 1,800m.
Glorious Victory (Derek Leung Ka-chun) hasn’t been placed in 15 starts but is racing consistently enough as he reaches the basement level in the ratings - he goes in, with Mr Vanilla (Neil Callan) and Keen Tactics (Chad Schofield) other options.
The middle leg, a Class Four over 1,650m, looks a real lottery, but go with Bright Concept (Purton) from barrier one in a race that lacks any depth.
From there, take Best Jade Triumph (Prebble), Rising Power (Rawiller) and The Sylph (Richard Fourie).