“King of the Valley” Caspar Fownes has called on old ally Brett Prebble to partner a couple of his charges on Wednesday night when Cheerfuljet and Sweet Bean loom as leading chances at the city track.
Fownes and Prebble have combined for 119 wins since first teaming up in 2004 and even though the duo haven’t worked together as frequently over the past two seasons, Cheerfuljet and Sweet Bean could kick-start things again on what could be a big night for both trainer and jockey.
Among those wins for Fownes have been Group One on Lucky Nine, victories on Valley hero Noble Conqueror and a memorable five wins together on a day when Prebble had six in June 2010.
Sweet Bean won’t be reaching any great heights, in fact the “Class Five lifer” may never get out of bottom grade.
Class Five and the term “iron horse” rarely fit together in the same sentence but the tag fits for Sweet Bean, the type of horse whose constitution makes up for an overall lack of ability.
Sweet Bean ran 20 times last season, notching three wins, and has run a remarkable 50 times in the past three seasons for five wins.
During that period Sweet Bean has never left the confines of Class Five, his rating hitting a high of 40 and dropping as low as 21.
Fownes has already sent the seven-year-old to the races three times this term and switching back to the smaller track looks the key after the gelding was an eye-catching third over 2,000m at Sha Tin.
The Des Voeux Handicap (1,800m) may just be the right race at the right time for a horse who does well over the course and distance.
All of Sweet Bean’s wins have been over 1,800m and four of those at Happy Valley.
Wide barriers have meant Sweet Bean has been forced to come from the tail of the field at his last two, which hasn’t helped, and while gate five looks easier it isn’t as if Prebble is on a horse blessed with tactical options.
Looping the field on the C course isn’t easy, but the better draw might allow Prebble to find a spot one or two pairs closer, and that could be all the in-form galloper needs.
The danger could be Fruitful Life (Karis Teetan), with trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen out to maintain his excellent Class Five record.
Five of Lor’s eight wins so far have been in cellar grade, those winners coming from just 14 runners.
The rookie trainer also has Winning Boy in an earlier Class Five, but Fruitful Life might be the best hope after an encouraging first-up effort over 1,650m.
The question will be whether Teetan can get Fruitful Life to settle on the speed after being bustled out of the gates to get there.
At the opposite end of the career spectrum to Sweet Bean is Fownes’ four-year-old Cheerfuljet, who tackles the Class Four Jackson Handicap (1,200m) second-up.
Cheerfuljet was forced to work hard to find the lead when resuming and showed he is a stronger sprinter this time in when he clung on for third behind Manful Star and Love Chunghwa over the course and distance.
Love Chunghwa gave the form a good look when he was an impressive winner last week, Cheerfuljet was just over a length behind him and had the fourth placegetter covered by a length and a half.
Two weeks later, Cheerfuljet now strikes an average Class Four field at his third career start.
Even though an awkward draw means the gelding may have to be used up to find a prominent spot he has the class to win here.