A return to 1,200m for John Moore’s promising three-year-old Green Card looks a piece of perfect placement and he looks the clear banker in the final leg of the Triple Trio at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Arriving from Australia with big wraps, having won his final two starts as a two-year-old by big margins at Bendigo and Caulfield, Green Card is yet to win in Hong Kong but has still stamped himself as a horse heading into Class Two and beyond.
His first run in Hong Kong saw him finish a solid third behind rising star Mr Stunning, beaten only a length and a quarter, but it was at his second start that he flashed his true potential.
That day, he settled worse than midfield in a race that was moderately run early but where the pressure was applied a long way out as Malmsteen and Momentum Lucky took each other on. That sort of pace scenario should have hampered Green Card, but instead he thrived, flashing home for a charging second to Malmsteen and entering every second Hong Kong black book.
It was a strong form race with first, third, fourth and fifth all finishing in the placings at their next start – all franking the form, with Green Card the lone exception. Last time out, though, it was a disaster for backers of the son of All American as everything went awry.
Stepping up to 1,400m for the first time, Green Card was awkwardly away under Hugh Bowman, getting on heels early before the top Australian rider gave him a dig to get his mind on the job. Unfortunately, it worked too well as the gelding got his head up, overracing and forcing the jockey to sit three and four-deep on the circle. It was no surprise when the horse knocked up badly.
The jury remains deadlocked over whether he truly sees out the extended trip, with his last outing providing no real guide, but even still, everything he has shown to date in his other runs suggests he might just be a top 1,200m horse.
In the end, he finished just over seven lengths behind fellow three-year-old My Darling in an effort that should be completely forgiven. Expect Green Card to be ridden further back, particularly over the sharper 1,200m, in an attempt to produce that devastating turn of foot that caught the eye two back.
On Sunday, he gets his fourth different jockey at his fourth local start, with Neil Callan taking over the reins after Douglas Whyte, Tommy Berry and Bowman rode him at his first three starts, and the Irishman faces a task from gate 10 to find cover in a race that looks to have moderate speed.
Joao Moreira will likely be forced to dash across on Diego Kosta from the outside barrier, while just inside him, his arch-rival Zac Purton may try to do the same on Mythical Emperor – especially given the lightly raced galloper is not the quickest out of the gates but can muster quickly.
Near the inside, Team Fortune (Whyte), Blaze Stamina (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu), Lang Tai Sing and Borntoachieve all have sufficient speed to kick up, but can also let the two widely drawn runners cross and get nice runs in transit, and it is hard to see a speed battle developing.
If there is one to include at odds, it is Divine Diya (Jack Wong Ho-nam) at his second run for Derek Cruz. The seven-year-old wasn’t disgraced at his first run in nearly a year, finishing eighth in that good form race won by Malmsteen, and he has performed well second-up in the past.
The first two legs look to have little speed on paper, with no established leaders engaged, but Moreira jumps aboard two horses with the ability to settle handy and both look reliable bankers.
It is always a risk to take a horse that has gone up 17 points in the ratings in two starts, but it isn’t tough to see Manfred Man Ka-leung’s Unique Joyous (Moreira) saluting again and the son of Thorn Park should win his way into Class Three in the opening leg, a Class Four over 1,600m.
Barrier one may not be ideal for Unique Joyous, who is not the fastest of beginners, but with little speed expect him to take a more forward spot right on the back of the leaders. His turn of foot should prove crucial once again after back-to-back wins by big margins, and he can be included as banker.
Also include potential leader Fine Rock (Chad Schofield) and maybe Penny Lane (Karis Teetan) too – he has been racing further back as of late but over a mile with little speed engaged, now might be the time to revert to old tactics. Of the others, include Rouge Et Blanc (Nash Rawiller), even with the step back in trip, while Real Generous (Matthew Chadwick) is very well rated, if only he doesn’t miss the start.
In the middle leg, a Class Four over 1,400m, Peter Ho Leung’s Unbeatable Guts (Moreira) stands out on paper as a good banker, if not the most likely winner.
Take him from last start winner Unleashed Dragon (Schofield), Formula Galore (Ho), Nitro Express (Callan) and perhaps include Tony Cruz’s Supernatural as a wildcard – he has raced back in three starts to date but did show an abundance of early speed in his barrier trials and the booking of Chadwick may be an indicator he will be ridden forward.