Danny Shum Chap-shing is loathe to be throwing Happilababy in the deep end with a run in the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup next start, but feels he has no choice after the emerging stayer’s impressive return to form yesterday.
Happilababy’s two-length victory from last in a 2,000m Class Three puts Shum’s four-year-old in the 80-plus ratings band for Hong Kong’s only 2,400m handicap, but whether his horse will have the right lead-up preparation is another matter.
“I hate to put him straight in that race, but he has forced my hand,” said Shum, whose concern is not just the significant class rise for a still-developing four-year-old, but the lack of a suitable Class Two stepping stone to get there.
“There’s one 2,200m race on Sunday, that is too soon, and we will have to go to the big race with one month between runs and without a proper test against those types of horses.
“It is not ideal, but he is obviously back in form, he will run the distance and he will have a light weight – so you never know. There are not many opportunities at that distance so we have to take it.”
Happilababy won well on international day, but suffered a steep drop off in form and was well beaten in two subsequent runs, after which the quirky grey was sent back to the trials.
A solid 1,600m turf trial was followed by a terrible effort on the dirt, but Shum was happy to ignore that and rebooked Purton for the first time since the December success.
“I think Zac might have the key to this horse,” Shum said. “He doesn’t push him early in races, I think that might be it.”
Purton said there was no secret to his affinity with the son of Mastercraftsman – just a case of right place, right time.
“When I’ve won on him, I have just sat quietly, but I don’t think there is any magical formula to it - it’s just luck. But he is a quirky horse - Danny tells me how hard he is to control in trackwork sometimes, but I haven’t had much trouble with him. It was good to see him come back and win like that because he had won quite well on international day and had been disappointing since.”
Purton might have been downplaying his horsemanship, but there was no denying the tactical execution after the rails-hugging effort where he swooped on some weakening leaders.
“I just allowed him to travel kindly through the first part of the race, so when the run came on the inside he had plenty of energy left to use,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised by that, because I had saved him and the leaders had cut into each other a bit.”