The “class drop” into extended band races can be a trap but Francis Lui Kin-wai’s prodigal son Strong Foundation still looks the one to beat in the final leg of a jackpot-bolstered Triple Trio at Happy Valley tomorrow night.
Strong Foundation started his career with Lui and returned to his original trainer earlier this season after stints with Ricky Yiu Poon-fai and Caspar Fownes, and has shown super form in three runs since at the Valley.
His first run back for Lui was a short-head second over 1,650m, which was followed by a solid three-quarter length victory in an above-average Class Four that pushed Strong Foundation’s rating into Class Two for the first time.
Strong Foundation competed well up in grade five weeks ago with a nice closing fourth in a race where Twin Delight dominated from up on the speed.
Joao Moreira was aboard for the win two starts back and looks to make it two-for-two on the six-year-old in the King Kwong Handicap, a ratings band 85-60 Class Three where he will carry top weight of 132 pounds.
On paper, there looks be a lack of real speed in this race, with only The Show standing out as an obvious leader, but with the rail in the C position and no clear speed, perhaps it will entice some with the necessary early toe to try their luck.
Regardless of the pace scenario, Strong Foundation has shown himself to be versatile enough to be positioned closer to the lead as required and from barrier six Moreira should find a one-off spot better than midfield.
From there look further down in the weights for chances, including in-form but badly drawn pair Superoi (Douglas Whyte) and Ten Flames (Derek Leung Ka-chun), for whom the top mark of 85 creates what seems more favourable conditions.
Super Talent gets a key gear change with Benno Yung Tin-pang going to a crossed nose band in an effort to give jockey Chad Schofield more control after the four-year-old was a little hard to control, but still ran on well, last start at Sha Tin.
Another key switch for Super Talent is the move across town to the Valley, as it does seem like a track that will suit a horse with decent 1,400m form at the bigger track.
Other options, if looking to play wide, are Foodie (Nash Rawiller) and Chater Dream (Karis Teetan).
Grabbing a piece of a possible HK$22 million payout, courtesy of an HK$12.7 million jackpot, won’t be easy with a 1,650m Class Four first leg that lacks a reliable banker.
Take Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s lightly raced last-start winner Ho Ho Feel (Brett Prebble) on top – perhaps he has enough upside to deal with these from a low draw.
Unlike the last leg, there seems an abundance of speed in the race, and this should help The Sylph (Ryan Moore), First Sight Love (Rawiller) and Pearl Warm Warm (Zac Purton).
Oscar Miracle (Moreira) deserves some consideration but will find it much tougher this time from barrier 12 and, although in great form, Yeung Sing (Teetan) has a question mark coming up to Class Four, where he is one from 16.
The second leg is where to narrow things down and take a risk in the feature race, the Happy Valley Trophy.
Domineer (Purton) won this race last season, albeit with 11 less pounds on his back, but drops back from Group One company with blinkers back on, a beautiful draw and with an encouraging trial at the track behind him.
Bank on Domineer’s exceptional course and distance record of four wins from six starts and take Eroico (Moreira) as a double banker – he was lumbered with 128 pounds last start and ran on fairly, but with 116 pounds on his back he should be better suited here.
Include Pablosky (Schofield), Accepted (Matthew Chadwick) and Frederick Engels (Moore).