Handy Class Three sprinter Hammer King can bounce back after a narrow last start defeat and looks a decent banker in the final leg of a jackpot-boosted Triple Trio at Sha Tin on Sunday.
A host of favoured runners missed a place in the TT last Sunday, resulting in a solid HK$13 million carryover into this weekend’s pool – but the expected big dividend will take some getting.
At least taking Hammer King (Joao Moreira) as banker in a 1,200m Class Three seems an obvious choice after the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained sprinter came up with barrier one on the C course following a another strong run nearly two weeks ago.
The four-year-old hasn’t missed a place in his last six starts, has won two of his past three and without looking like a superstar, still seems to have a few ratings points in hand.
Hammer King probably should have won before his maiden victory three starts back but had struggled to keep his mind on the job and threw a few races away by hanging badly in the final stages of contests.
After that first win in February, the application of a lugging bit to the horse’s gear resulted in startling improvement – Hammer King winning as he pleased, Moreira still hanging on tight as he crossed the line with a comfortable one-and-a-half length margin to second.
The effort was so impressive punters had Hammer King rated a 3.3 chance in a match-up against 1.9 favourite Mr Stunning – a horse many experts have down as a future star.
In the end, both horses were edged out in a thrilling three-way go, with winner Tonyboy sneaking up on their inside late, and just a short-head separating the three horses on the line.
Barrier one isn’t always a positive, but the map could play out perfectly for Hammer King, a horse who has mostly raced handy without ever actually leading.
The biggest danger to Hammer King is John Size-trained three-year-old Momentum Lucky (Nash Rawiller), winner of his last two and a decent double banker if looking to play narrow.
Still, Momentum Lucky will have to cross to the rail from barrier 11 – he should be able to do that, although it will give Moreira the sit on a rival that might just have to do some extra work to find the front, even if the leader does get a breather once he gets there.
Numero Uno will go forward, but no longer has the speed at this distance to contest the lead, while first-starter Sunny Win raced handy in Australia and could also be in the pace mix if pushed.
The other obvious chance, Healthy Joyful (Zac Purton), also drew out in gate 12, with Purton likely to follow Rawiller across and hope for a one-off spot.
This looks a tricky race outside of that leading group and an upset wouldn’t surprise – Invincible Fresh (Olivier Doleuze) is a tough one to assess first-up since December, but should be taken after some strong recent gallops.
Supreme Falcon (Chad Schofield) is dropping to a dangerous level in the handicaps and might be the other one to throw in.
Take a Moreira mount as banker in the opening leg as well with John Moore-trained Team Sweet getting a much-needed step up to a mile in a tricky Class Four.
Team Sweet won four starts back over 1,400m and, although slightly disappointing two starts back, has otherwise found the line nicely and 1,600m now looks ideal for the three-year-old.
Also include Step High (Purton), Lightning And Gold (Schofield) and So Caffe (Doleuze), who gets up to his best trip for the first time under Caspar Fownes after a minor setback caused him to be withdrawn three weeks ago.
The second leg, a Class Four up the straight, looks an absolute minefield where a long-priced blowout result could easily create another jackpot.
Go with either Diamond Bit (Karis Teetan) or Smiling Glory (Moreira) as banker, from Fish N’ Chips (Ben So Tik-hung), Gallant Rock (Kei Chiong Ka-kei) and King Of Household (Purton).