Caspar Fownes flies out to Dubai tomorrow night to oversee the final stages of Gun Pit’s preparation for the Group One Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three at Meydan on Saturday, but before he does, the leading trainer plays a dominant hand in the Triple Trio at Happy Valley.
Fownes is known as the “Happy Valley king” for his prowess at the city circuit and tomorrow night, he saddles up Peace Combination and Da Vinci – a couple of solid banker types in the first and last legs of the TT.
Peace Combination (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) returns to the Valley with a low draw in the Class Four opening leg while Da Vinci (Joao Moreira) has been inching ever closer to a local breakthrough and should salute in a Class Three sprint.
An inexplicable failure over the course and distance two back when a heavily backed favourite is of slight concern when locking Peace Combination in as top pick in the Sham Shui Po Handicap but the lightly raced five-year-old has bounced back to form since with a solid straight track performance a little over two weeks ago and seems set to perform well again.
With the rail in the C+3 position, a week after the rail was in the C position and seemingly played to leaders, it is Peace Combination’s barrier, three, that adds a huge amount of confidence.
From there, Ho should find a nice position in a 1,200m race that doesn’t contain a lot of obvious leaders on paper, but should still be run at a decent clip – especially if the first three races suggest on pace is the place to be.
Another horse drawn well is Pearl Win (Neil Callan), who should win again soon in this company and endured a horror run last time out when trapped wide through the first turn over the course and distance.
Carefree Let Go (Zac Purton) will also be winning soon enough and goes in, along with London City (Eurico Rosa da Silva) – a horse yet to be tried at the course and distance but with the right attributes to compete well.
An intriguing runner is John Size-trained first-starter Wisky, with punters left to grapple with the fact Moreira appears to have jumped off Peace Combination in favour of riding the northern hemisphere import.
It pays not to read too much into jockey decisions when it comes to rides, but perhaps this particular choice has more to do with a long-term view as most European debutants struggle first time around. Still, keep this one safe and don’t leave it out as the four-year-old has trialled well enough to suggest he will be competitive.
Moreira has stuck solid with Da Vinci after a third and second on the import at his last two and the consistent son of Jet Spur should go close in the So Kon Po Handicap over 1,200m.
Da Vinci has raced well over the course and distance, but a word of warning: this is a deep race that is by no means a straightforward task, especially for a horse with a zero from 14 local record.
All four wins for Choice Treasure (Callan) have been in this grade, three with blinkers on – Dennis Yip Chor-hong puts the shades back on and came up with a big result when the grey drew gate two. From there, he should get the run of the race and he will be hard to hold out.
Others to consider are Racing Mate (Chad Schofield), Forever Red (Nash Rawiller) and backmarker Back In Black (Karis Teetan), who could get an ideal set-up with the presence of tearaway speedster Harbour Alert.
The middle leg is the night’s feature race, the Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Challenge Cup, a Class Four which starts right in front of the Football Club at the 1,000m getaway.
Paul O’Sullivan isn’t renowned for his first starters but his stable is flying and the three trials of Moment Of Power (Purton) – all at the track, including one recent four-length romp – suggest the three-year-old has ability above Class Four level.
Moment Of Power is banker from King Of Household (Da Silva), Fantastico (Moreira) and, as a blow-out place chance, Yo-Yo Da (Jacky Tong Chi-kit).