Counting on the class of star sprinters Gold-Fun and Peniaphobia as double bankers in the final leg of Sunday’s Triple Trio at Sha Tin can pay off in what looks an otherwise tough bet to nail down.
Tony Cruz-trained Peniaphobia (Joao Moreira) finished half a length ahead of Richard Gibson’s Gold-Fun (Christophe Soumillon) on international day and they square off again at level weights with what looks an edge on their rivals in the Group One Centenary Sprint Cup.
Peniaphobia captured his first Group One in this race last year, when it was still held over 1,000 metres, and might be even more suited now that the distance has been changed to 1,200m.
With a dominant Longines Hong Kong Sprint performance, where Joao Moreira took the race by the scruff of the neck from barrier 14 and led all the way, Peniaphobia set a new benchmark for the current crop of local sprinters.
The five-year-old is clearly in career-best shape and drops into gate two - from where he should again be able to dictate - against basically the same opposition he handled on December 13.
Gold-Fun’s form since shifting back to sprints has been outstanding and he was a touch unlucky, if not to win, then at least challenge and finish closer in the Hong Kong Sprint.
After being just half a length slow at the start, Gold-Fun found himself awkwardly placed in midfield, and didn’t get the tow into the race he needed from the horse he trailed in the run, Mongolian Saturday.
Gold-Fun drops into gate three and that should assist Soumillon. From there he will have a target on Moreira’s back and is likely to be stalking him throughout.
Third-place getter from the sprint, Not Listenin’tome (Hugh Bowman) goes in, along with classy globetrotter Aerovelocity (Zac Purton), although there must be some doubts surrounding the Paul O’Sullivan seven-year-old after his early season issues with a heart irregularity.
One horse that comes from left field to consider is Strathmore (Ryan Moore), after he was a late withdrawal on international day due to a positive swab.
With close to HK$6 million in carry-over already in the pool after last weekend’s blowout result in the TT - 121-1 shot Brilliant Shine blew most punters out of the water in the second leg - there is plenty to play for on Sunday.
Getting a slice of what should be a fat dividend will require negotiating the opening two legs that could contain plenty of booby traps.
In the opening leg, John Size-trained Easy Hedge (Nash Rawiller) faces the tough situation of a three-year-old giving weight to older horses in a 1,600m Class Four.
Horses can get “stuck” as they try to break through what can seem an invisible barrier between grades and the youngster may even find it an easier task up in Class Three with a lighter weight.
This represents a better chance for Easy Hedge to progress than last start, when a wide barrier forced him to work early to take a prominent spot, first time up at a mile.
With that experience under his belt and, more critically, with a low barrier, Easy Hedge should be given a softer run in transit and the same sort of effort should see him go close.
Chris So Wai-yin’s Aztec Empire (Moreira) goes in as he creeps back into the bottom of the grade after two Class Five mile wins. He also gets a gun gate against a particularly weak field.
From there, in a race with a long tail, take your pick; keep a market watch on Good Good View (Moore) as he drops in grade, from Unique Joyous (Keith Yeung Ming-lun) and Happy Journey (Richard Fourie).
In the middle leg, a 1,400m Class Three, Hastily Feet (Brett Prebble) gets yet another horrid barrier draw, but can still act as the banker from Electronic Phoenix (Purton), Go Duke (Neil Callan) and Gorgeous Legend (Derek Leung Ka-chun).