Tony Cruz-trained Bullish Smart may be headed back to Happy Valley next week for a surprise crack at the Million Challenge after putting himself into contention by winning last night.
Bullish Smart (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) took the benefits of a leader bias on the night and just a hint of give in the ground after light drizzly rain all night at the Valley and held the fort from barrier to box.
The five-year-old scrambled in by a nose over Trendy Win but it was a crucial nose, as it took him to 40 points in the Million Challenge which finishes next Wednesday night.
The clubhouse leader is Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Speedy Longwah on 55 points, but 15 points for another victory would bring Bullish Smart level – all he’d have to worry about then would be the other five horses in front of him at present.
“It wasn’t the plan to run him again next week but now that he’s got a chance, I’ll have to consider it,” said Cruz. “It would naturally depend on how the horse comes out of this race, but if he comes through it well then I’d have to talk to the owner about backing him up.”
Bullish Smart went through all of last season without a win but last night’s victory was his second this campaign and Cruz said he thought last night’s conditions had played their part.
“It’s very biased, this track, and he probably appreciated some rain as well,” said the trainer, who landed a double after winning with Happy Spirit (Alvin Ng Ka-chun) earlier.
“He led all the way too so the track was helping him but he’s doing a good job, this horse. He’s only had four starts for two wins, we have only raced him up to 1,650m so far but I feel sure he will be very effective over 1,800m as well.”
Shum is offering all the opposition for John Size in the trainers’ title race at this stage of the season, and he is getting as much of a break on the rest as Size is getting on him after landing a winning double, too.
Mission Possible (Nash Rawiller) was sent out surprisingly good odds before he continued the good record of promoted reserves, while Lucky Profit was one of the few winners from behind the speed two races later.
“Mission Possible was lucky to get a start when there was a scratching and luckily the scratched horse had barrier one so he was quite fortunate,” Shum said. “With Joao Moreira on, he probably would have been odds-on but I think the different jockey was the reason for the odds. He isn’t a very big horse but he is all heart and he should handle Class Three.”
Lucky Profit was part of a double for Moreira, who won the last with Mr Right, and Shum credited the Brazilian with the Rotary Centenary Challenge Cup win.
“I thought he could win last run too when Joao didn’t ride him but the horse missed the start and was unlucky,” Shum said. “He isn’t a good beginner but Joao seems to be able to get him to jump like he did tonight and be a bit closer in the race. It’s a winning difference.”
Trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung celebrated his 400th career winner in style when E-Super (Ryan Moore) took the night’s second trophy event, the Volunteers’ Challenge Cup over 1,200m.
Moore always had the four-year-old well placed trailing the pace and then drove him clear to win by a length.