With the big guns away, the others can play and that’s how the Jockey Challenge shapes up on Sunday with Umberto Rispoli installed as favourite.
With Joao Moreira and Zac Purton competing in Japan, the Italian rider opened up a $3.25 chance in an open contest, with fly-in Australian jockey Craig Williams the second-elect ahead of South African young gun Callan Murray.
Rispoli has a strong book of seven rides, with six of them at single-figure prices in the overnight markets.
The John Size-trained Ivictory is clearly his best chance of the day, having come from well back to score on debut.
“He is a horse that has shown some ability. He jumped pretty nice the other day, it was 1,000m and the pace was fast, but he never lost his confidence and he showed a nice turn of foot to win the race,” Rispoli said.
“[I didn’t think] we were winning, but I felt I still had something under me.
“He had a few things against him but the last 400m he proved I was right and when I hit him twice he kept going to the winning post.”
Rispoli thinks the step up to the 1,200m of the Class Four Sha Tin Heights Handicap will suit, as will barrier four.
“We’ve got a nice draw, we’ll probably sit behind the speed, the horse will be more mature. We’ve got some chance to win again,” he said.
“Mr Size has many good horses and it’s always a pleasure riding for him, but Ivictory has to prove he can carry 133 pounds to win the race.”
The jockey also looks a good chance to land a blow with stablemate Jolly Bountiful in the fourth, while the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Super Wise in the ninth also creates a lot of interest.
Chad Schofield is another who looks poised for a strong day, kicking off with Lucky Master, who looks set to start a prohibitive favourite in the Griffin race.
While that one looks as close to a moral as you can get, Schofield also looks a good chance on the Size-trained Dinozzo in the Class Two Hong Kong Young Industrialists Council Silver Jubilee Cup (2,000m).
“Since his Derby he’s held that form really nicely. His recent trial at Happy Valley was nice, he only had a quiet time but he hit the line nicely on the bit,” Schofield said.
“He’s a nice stayer, he can relax in his races and he finishes them off nicely so no doubt he’s a nice chance.”
Karis Teetan is the only rider with a full book and he was the big firmer in the early Jockey Challenge market, opening up at $12 and coming into $9, one of six in single figures.