David Hall-trained pair Bamboo Dance and Hard Ball Get have been heading in opposite directions as far as their trajectories in the ratings, but they have a few things in common tomorrow at Sha Tin and look solid bankers in the opening two legs of the Triple Trio.
Bamboo Dance has been one of the feel-good stories of the season so far, continuing his rise from the depths of Class Five with two wins to start the term to make it five on end. Hard Ball Get, meanwhile, is still winless after 19 starts for Hall but has been knocking on the door, having had his rating fall nearly 30 points since he arrived just over two years ago.
Tomorrow, both horses find themselves at the top of Class Four and each gets the services of record-breaking jockey Joao Moreira, who has been in unstoppable form, in races where they each look the standout.
It’s rare for a horse to come from such a low ratings base as Bamboo Dance and work his way into Class Four, let alone keep on going and reach Class Three, but the impressive manner in which Hall’s reinvigorated eight-year-old has been winning suggests carrying a big weight over a mile tomorrow won’t be a problem.
Making matters easier is the fact Bamboo Dance seems to have struck a below-strength race featuring a group of horses that don’t seem to be going anywhere in a hurry.
The only added degree of difficulty for Bamboo Dance is a wide gate after drawing barrier three at his last two starts, which allowed him to nestle safely back into a soft trail in midfield.
What will help Moreira from gate 11 is some competition for the lead, causing the field to space out and giving him an opportunity to slot into a one-off spot.
Unique Happiest is the rival with the best recent form having won his last two but the fact Almond Lee has called on claimer Jack Wong Ho-nam is an admission the horse is nearing his ratings peak. He will be sent forward from barrier 12, and could have company from Chancellor (Umberto Rispoli) and House Of Luck (Jacky Tong Chi-kit).
Also include Faithful Boy (Howard Cheng Yue-tin) and Step High (Keith Yeung Ming-lun).
Hard Ball Get was a Group Three winner in Australia with a record of three from four but hasn’t lived up to his billing yet, and barring some kind of Bamboo Dance-like miracle, he is never likely to, either. Still, he comes off an eye-catching run and gets his chance here.
The grey showed glimpses of form at times during his first season, but was mostly outclassed in Class Two. He also battled lameness and it wasn’t until he had tumbled all the way into Class Four midway through last season, after a lengthy layoff, that things began to turn around.
Hard Ball Get has been second in three of his last four and now gets the “Magic first time” jockey change that some are convinced can spark a horse into finding an extra length.
That is probably all Hard Ball Get needs to find, if that, as he heads into a 1,400m Class Four with a kind draw looking to snap his losing streak.
The horse that beat him last start, Magical Beauty (Douglas Whyte), again looms as the biggest threat, but Hard Ball Get meets him three pounds better for a half-length defeat, and won’t have to surrender as much ground at the start from the kinder draw; last time they met, had Hard Ball Get been a length closer in the run, he probably wins.
Also take Electronic Phoenix (Karis Teetan), dropping back to a distance over which the four-year-old was successful two starts back – he should get the speed he needs here – and from there take Bear Rapper (Richard Fourie) and Ho Lee Horse (Rispoli).
In the final leg, another 1,400m Class Four, bank Victor Emperor (Whyte) from Diamond King (Cheng), Amazing Always (Teetan), Born To Race (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) and Royale Elegance (Rispoli).