After being badly held up for a run last start, Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s young stayer Ho Ho Feel returns to Happy Valley with Joao Moreira aboard for the first time and he looks a fantastic banker in the final leg of a tricky Triple Trio tomorrow night.
Yip’s four-year-old has done a great job in his first season of racing, taking a while to warm up over some shorter trips before breaking through for a maiden win in January over 1,650m.
The son of Henrythenavigator has been solid since then as well, placing twice over 1,800m at Sha Tin before returning to the Valley for his luckless last start three weeks ago.
Yip had dropped his horse back to 1,650m and applied blinkers for the first time and Ho Ho Feel was sent around second favourite in what looked a stock-standard Class Four, but the gelding ended up heading to the line virtually untested.
Douglas Whyte found himself behind a wall of horses in the straight and was unable to ride Ho Ho Feel out, leaving plenty of potential energy saved up for tomorrow’s Class Four against another average late season field.
The blinkers come back off again and Yip has elected to head back up to 1,800m – both the gear change and distance look good decisions, with the Valley’s 1,800m a different, but perhaps not as demanding, test as the same distance at the bigger track.
Even though Ho Ho Feel was ridden quieter at Sha Tin and finished off well, maybe that was to conserve some stamina; around the tighter city circuit, the horse has been ridden handier, including when he won for Brett Prebble five months ago.
That tactical versatility gives Moreira options and although the pace of 1,800m races at the Valley can be hard to pick, perhaps with the rail in the C+3 position there will be enough pace to suit his closing style.
Barrier nine is tricky, but there looks enough speed that the field could string out during the relatively long run to the first turn, allowing Moreira to slot Ho Ho Feel into a one-off spot.
Smart Union (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) and Aztec Empire (Whyte) look the obvious speed influences and have to go in, and if it was just up to them a slower tempo would be likely, yet another horse with a great chance will go into the speed mix, with Danny Shum Chap-shing’s four-year-old Glory Star (Derek Leung Ka-chun) coming back to a more suitable trip.
Also include lightweights Cash Courier (Karis Teetan) and Fortune Giggles (Chad Schofield).
In the second leg, the Cricket Club Valley Stakes, dirt specialist Hit The Bid (Jack Wong Ho-nam) heads to Happy Valley for the first time in more than a year but can be counted on as a banker.
Hit The Bid has only won two of his 28 career starts but has a remarkable place strike rate and has missed the frame in just two of nine starts this season.
Drawn barrier two, the Tony Millard-trained on-pacer should get every chance in the 1,200m Class Three.
Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Happy Cooperation (Teetan) is an intriguing runner coming to the smaller track for the first time – a kind draw was crucial for a young horse that has been anything but straightforward at times, and he got it with gate three.
Happy Cooperation is a possible double banker, but keep a watch on two three-year-olds that the market might squeeze out despite their big name jockeys sticking with them after unplaced efforts.
Punters got their fingers burnt when Big Bang Bong (Moreira) failed to get hot as favourite on debut, and even though the European import’s pedigree indicates he might need further still, 1,200m is better than the helter-skelter 1,000m events.
Another youngster, Bolshoi Ballet (Zac Purton) has drawn a decent gate and while his best days are also ahead of him, he has to go in as well.
Keep it tight here and add just one more, Da Vinci (Matthew Chadwick), bearing in mind that it could take a few more selections to just get through a first leg minefield.
In the opening leg, a Class Four over 1,650m, it’s a case of “in Moreira we trust” as Apache Spirit goes in as banker, jumping from barrier eight.
Apache Spirit is a standout here almost by default, in a contest full of unreliable types. Top of the list is talented but temperamental miler Imperial Gallantry (Nash Rawiller), coming to the track for the first time, yet he is not without a chance if he gets the right type of pace scenario.
Also take Massive Power (Leung), Real Generous (Schofield) and Yourthewonforme (Ho).