Zac Purton has an early season roll on and the Australian can keep the momentum going with a couple of race-fit chances on Wednesday night at Happy Valley.
Victory Marvel and Beauty Kingdom both enter the midweek meeting off terrific first-up runs this term and can help extend Purton’s jockeys’ championship lead.
With Joao Moreira suspended last Sunday, Purton took full advantage with four winners, taking him to nine so far in 2016-17 and giving him a five-victory lead over the defending champion and the Magic Man will be missing again on Wednesday.
The Caspar Fownes-trained Victory Marvel showed some promise without winning in four starts in his first season before a stress fracture prematurely ended his three-year-old campaign.
Now four, Victory Marvel seems have returned as a more seasoned competitor and took a big step forward with a three-quarter length Class Four win over 1,200m at the Valley two weeks ago.
The Australian-bred son of I am Invincible stays in the grade after going up seven points and returns to the same distance, with the rail out in the C position.
Even with the weight increase, this task doesn’t look much more difficult than last start, in fact three of Victory Marvel’s rivals come out of the same race.
Of those, perhaps Supreme Flight looms as the obvious improver, the Tony Millard-trained front-runner was cluttered up on the rail last start – although Karis Teetan replacing seven pound-claimer Kei Chiong Ka-kei means any type of weight swing was instantly negated.
Gate five looks perfect for Victory Marvel in a race with the sort of speed that will play into Purton’s hands on a horse that should settle midfield – but keep an eye on on-pace runner Cour Valant (Neil Callan), who dropped two points in the off-season and trialled well at the track in pre-season.
Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Kingdom, an Irish-bred gelding imported off some fair two-year-old sprint form for Newmarket-based handler Roger Varian, is another four-year-old that would have toughened up after a testing first season.
Not surprisingly, Beauty Kingdom has shown he needs further than sprints to be competitive, and now returns to the Valley’s extended mile after an excellent display over 1,400m at Sha Tin on opening day.
Beauty Kingdom won in Class Three at the end of last season and first-up with Purton aboard needed to work hard to get across from gate nine and was then pressured in the run.
A three-quarter length third to progressive type Baba Mama was a great effort considering the exertion early in the race and this time Purton gets the relative luxury of barrier four.
Even if Beauty Kingdom never progresses beyond Class Three, he will pay his way within the grade, and should start with a win against a decent field here.
The biggest dangers loom from the low gates with the rail out as Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Inventor (Nash Rawiller), chasing three straight course and distance wins and with barrier one, and Super Fluke (Derek Leung Ka-chun), who is edging towards a breakthrough.
Purton also has a great chance of success earlier in the evening when Richard Gibson’s Kerkeni contests a Class Five after two placings when dropping into the grade late last term.