Manfred Man Ka-leung is having a quiet season by his standards but a big night at Happy Valley could bring the trainer at least a couple of wins closer to meeting the minimum benchmark criteria.
Under the new 88-meeting schedule, trainers are required to reach at least 16 wins for a season to avoid a “strike” against their name, with three strikes requiring the trainer to face an off-season “show cause” hearing.
This rule was put into play when trainers Andreas Schutz and Sean Woods were stripped of their licences in the most recent summer break.
Man has 12 winners so far and, with less than a third of the season remaining, he is one of seven trainers yet to meet the cut-off, although Almond Lee and Francis Lui Kin-wai are only one win away on 15.
The relegation battle is also largely irrelevant for Gary Ng Ting-keung (eight wins), as the 64-year-old is facing compulsory retirement after next season anyway, but Man, Michael Chang Chun-wai (12 wins), Richard Gibson (11) and Derek Cruz (six) are hoping for a late-season flourish.
Since training 19 winners in 2006-07, Man has led in an average of 31.4 winners per season in the nine campaigns since, so this term stands out as a drop off, especially given he had respectable returns of 37 and 33 wins over the last two seasons.
Healthy Luck has been one of the bright spots for Man’s 2016-17 campaign with two wins and two placings from five starts and the three-year-old looks hard to beat again in the second section of the Class Three Dorset Handicap (1,200m).
A strong last start win over the course and distance resulted in the handicapper readjusting Healthy Luck to a rating of 70, up seven points, but the smart young sprinter’s natural upside should be able to absorb that increase.
Also of benefit is barrier five, from where Douglas Whyte is likely to sit just off what could be a furious early speed.
It is a race where pressure will come from outside, with a couple of notable on-pace chances drawn in the widest three gates – Moment Of Power (Zac Purton), Arm Runda (Olivier Doleuze) and Young Empire (Jack Wong Ho-nam) having all been ridden prominently at times.
Whyte might just slot in behind Most Beautiful, drawn the barrier inside of him and almost certain to be ridden to lead by aggressive apprentice Kei Chiong Ka-kei.
Keep a close watch on Happy Cooperation (Keith Yeung Ming-lun), who made a sound return over 1,000m last start and could appreciate sitting just off and finding his rhythm in a pressure race.
Man’s other great chance for the night is Jade Fortune (Purton), for whom a better draw can make the difference in the Class Three Hereford Handicap (1,650m).
Jade Fortune has raced well since switching to the city track, getting blinkers on and stepping up to 1,650m for the first time in February, finishing third at his first try before a short-head defeat to all-the-way winner High Volatility in late March.
Sent out 2.5 favourite on the strength of that fast-finishing display, Jade Fortune was pushed forward from gate eight on April 20, and early work to lead probably cost the four-year-old.
Jade Fortune was three-deep through much of the first turn and with Purton trying to conserve energy around the home bend, the gelding was left flat-footed when early moves came from the back.
Given the circumstances, a two-and-a-half length beaten margin was respectable and this time the race set-up looks much more friendly.
Provided Jade Fortune jumps clean, Purton should be able to get the right run, staying close without pushing hard.