Team Fortune’s resurgence has been one of the biggest surprises of the season and the dirt specialist can continue trainer Chris So Wai-yin’s tremendous start to the term with a fourth straight win on Sunday at Sha Tin.
Switching Team Fortune to the all-weather track has proved a masterstroke, after a first-up run on turf, the five-year-old has reeled off three comfortable wins on the dirt to push his rating to 84.
Team Fortune has done it the hard way too, jumping from gates 12, nine and 11 in 1,200m races, and won in a style that suggests there could be even more in store on the surface.
Some have even playfully suggested that Team Fortune could contest the Group One Golden Shaheen in March next year – even if going from Class Four to Group One in the space of six months seems a little far-fetched.
Still, another decisive win here would put Team Fortune in the frame for a mixed ratings band (110-90) Class One in January, a race that will contain a host of host of sprinters pushing for an invite to Dubai.
Win that race and So and Team Fortune could be on their way to the desert, but first they need to put away a competitive field in the Salisbury Handicap on Sunday.
A Golden Shaheen win for Team Fortune is still more likely than So winning the trainers’ championship, but he continues to hold the big guns at bay in the early stages of the season.
With 25 meetings gone, around 28 per cent of the season, So still holds a slender lead with 23 wins, one more than his former boss Caspar Fownes.
Douglas Whyte gets back on board Team Fortune after missing the horse’s last win through suspension and this time he gets the relative luxury of barrier four.
Low gates, especially on the all-weather track, don’t necessarily equate to doing less work at the start, but four seems ideal for Team Fortune’s racing style.
There should be speed all around Team Fortune, and Whyte should be able to take a one-off spot close to the pace without getting caught in the early battle up front.
Team Fortune gets in well with 121 pounds but it could be another lightweight to include as the main danger, with John Moore’s Happy Meteor coming back to the inner circuit after a first-up run at Happy Valley.
Happy Meteor was unplaced after working hard from a wide gate, but it is on the dirt where the six-year-old has staged a career turnaround of his own, stringing together a sequence of strong runs at the tail end of last season.
After hitting a ratings ceiling in Class Three, the son of Northern Meteor won two from three on the dirt, and ran third in other, and like Team Fortune, has a style well-suited to the sustained pace of all-weather events.
Another interesting runner for Moore is People’s Knight (Sam Clipperton), on a one-week back-up in an all-weather track 1,650m Class Three as the trainer tries to reignite the one-time boom horse’s Derby aspirations.
When People’s Knight, an A$1 million yearling purchase, won two of three as a griffin in his first campaign and then added the 2015 Griffin Trophy to his resume, the 2017 Hong Kong Derby was squarely in owner James Tien Pei-chun’s sights.
People’s Knight lost his way though, placed in just one of his next five starts, and was eventually castrated at the end of last season.
It took a while for People’s Knight to come to terms with his new status as a gelding but a second straight win on Sunday would put the four-year-old in the frame for a start in the Group One Hong Kong Classic Mile, and back on the Derby path once again.