The barrier draws have been mostly kind to Caspar Fownes as he eyes a big night at Happy Valley and gate one makes sprinter Master Steed the best of the in-form trainer’s eight chances.
Fownes didn’t get much luck at the draw in the Australian Turf Club Trophy, with his two runners Royal Partner and Vanilla drawing nine and 12 respectively, but the remainder of his team drew six or lower – with barriers key for a couple of lower-graders.
Most notable of them is Master Steed (Nash Rawiller), who drew one after a solid first-up display and should add to Fownes’ 16 winners at his favourite track this term.
Master Steed put the writing on the wall with a fast closing sectional last start at Sha Tin, after settling way back in the field, and should relish a switch of venues and the better barrier in the Inverness Handicap (1,200m).
Drawn 13 last start, Rawiller took a hold after jumping as he looked to slot in, sitting third last in the run, and in a race where the first two around the turn finished first and third, Master Steed went close to breaking 22 seconds for the last 400m as he motored home for second.
Given previous form indicates Master Steed prefers Happy Valley, a switch back to the smaller circuit and its more forgiving surface seems like the right move.
The draw is the biggest factor though, race position will be everything and Rawiller can slot into a lovely position from barrier one.
Master Steed has raced closer before, especially when presented with similarly low gates over the course and distance, and if he can jump clean a rails run behind what should be a reasonable tempo awaits.
Joao Moreira gets back on Fownes’ miler Double Point in the Forfar Handicap, looking to build on the extraordinary partnership the jockey has built with the yard this season.
The Fownes-Moreira combo has been especially effective in the cellar grade, where the duo have five wins from eight starts this season.
In fact, so deadly is the Fownes-Moreira-Class Five combo, that Double Point is the only Class Five horse Moreira has ridden for Fownes this season that he hasn’t won on – but that could change on Wednesday.
Simply forget Double Point went around last start after Douglas Whyte failed to find clear room in the straight and two starts ago Moreira was only beaten by the barriers.
Double Point was second to Mutual Joy, the winner box-seating and Moreira forced to sit a pair further back than he would have liked after pushing across from barrier 10.
This time it could be Moreira in the box seat on a horse with enough gate speed to take advantage of barrier two and hold a prominent spot, either leading or behind Friends Forever (Zac Purton).
The lack of obvious speed in the race helps both the aforementioned horses’ chances but doesn’t do much for the claims of another horse that looks ready to win, Yeung Sing (Karis Teetan), for whom barrier one in another slowly run event is an awkward draw.
Fownes’ three-year-old Jumbo Happiness (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) is still learning what racing is all about but also gets a better gate after drawing double digits at his first two starts.
Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Love Chunghwa (Moreira) and the David Hall-trained Mr Picasso (Brett Prebble) will be very hard to beat in the second section of the 1,200m Class Four, but Jumbo Happiness should be considered stepping back up in trip on the “A” course.
Jumbo Happiness was a non-factor in the “Rakegate” voided race, essentially a barrier trial for him.
Last start he was out-paced early over 1,000m but really got trucking late, his fifth at big odds much better than it looks on paper.
The son of Fastnet Rock has been given another quiet trial since then, and even if it seems like he will appreciate more ground in time, if Ho can find a comfortable rhythm early Jumbo Happiness should be rocketing home late.
Winaswewish (Olivier Doleuze) is another drawn in barrier two – although to be fair he was given every chance from a low gate last time and faces a similar level of opposition here over 1,800m.