After a couple of tough runs up the Sha Tin straight, John Size-trained Top Bonus returns to the scene of his only win to date and can kick off the Triple Trio as banker in the first leg at Happy Valley tomorrow night.
It took a special conditions Class Four, a contest for horses yet to win a race in the season, for Top Bonus to break through last term, but it wasn’t as if he had been completely terrible through that first campaign.
Although the son of Savabeel was often fancied in betting, like many three-year-olds, Top Bonus sometimes struggled against the older horses – although among his defeats, there was a short-head defeat and a few other handy displays.
Top Bonus is never going to be a superstar, but he has returned a little bit bigger and stronger at four, and now comes back to the Valley’s 1,200m course a little over two weeks since a fifth at Sha Tin.
Sha Tin’s straight races are demanding in their own way – sustained speed and pressure can make them seem like something more akin, stamina-wise, to a 1,400m event. Top Bonus has spent the last two starts up in the firing line, and has handled it reasonably well.
He finds a race that isn’t weak, but it looks an easier task than recent outings, and one where Joao Moreira should be able to find a handy sit and perhaps a softer run from barrier five.
Helping Top Bonus is the fact most of the dangers are go-forward horses and they have drawn out: I’m A Witness (Douglas Whyte), Joyful The Great (Gerald Mosse) and Planet Giant (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) all have to be included, but will have their work cut out either finding the lead or a one-off spot in the run.
Lucky Profit (Derek Leung Ka-chun) did well coming up out of Class Five last start and consider Vara Pearl (Silvestre de Sousa) as he drops in grade with a good draw.
In the second leg, an open-looking Class Three over 1,650m, take de Sousa’s mount Beauty Kingdom as banker despite his wide draw.
The Tony Cruz-trained four-year-old is in good form and he faces what looks the weaker of the two sections into which the entries for this race were split.
Include Foodie (Ryan Moore), Red Marvel (Moreira) and Lotus Breeze (Brett Prebble).
The other section of the 1,650m Class Four is full of in-form runners – even if some look right up to their marks.
David Hall’s Heroic Guru (Prebble) is one of these – he has never looked a horse that would win three races on the bounce, but a low draw and suitable conditions could see the five-year-old do just that.
With Heroic Guru as banker, take Little Dragon (Alex Lai Hoi-wing), Ultimate Glory (Mosse) and give Superoi (Moreira) another chance after he was disappointing, albeit with plenty of excuses, last start.