Joao Moreira may have come up with weak group of rides in the International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley but he should finish the night on a high with Winnie’s Honey out to confirm a place in the Group Three January Cup.
Winnie’s Honey never got going in what was meant to be a Hong Kong Derby campaign but after a transfer to Caspar Fownes late last season and more recently a switch to Happy Valley, the Australian import has started to fire.
Formerly known as Omeros and trained by John Sargent in Sydney, Winnie’s Honey won a maiden at start two before being thrown into the deep end and the Group Two Tulloch Stakes, where he bumped into Godolphin’s Hauraki – a horse that went on to win at Group One level.
After an unplaced run over 2,400m in the Australian Derby, Winnie’s Honey was sent to Sha Tin and initially trained by Francis Lui Kin-wai, for whom the gelding was unplaced in two starts.
After an unlucky second two starts back, Winnie’s Honey was the subject of a wave of late money as he jumped odds-on, justifying the support with a dominant win over 1,800m at the Valley.
It bumped Winnie Honey’s rating up to 93, which might even be enough to run in the January Cup over the same course and distance on January 4, but another dominant display would make it absolutely certain.
Lining up over 1,800m again, Winnie’s Honey should be able to absorb the ratings rise against a group that contains five horses he outclassed last start.
Joao Moreira actually rode Winnie’s Honey in the Australian Derby, so technically he doesn’t have a perfect record on the horse, but he stays on after producing a beautiful ride last time.
Moreira weaved his way to a midfield rail spot from gate 10 before appearing, like magic, in clear room upon turning, but it should not be as difficult to get the right run from barrier three this time around.
Back-to-back winner Packing Dragon, a half brother to former champion Ambitious Dragon, looks the likely leader, but there are enough other horses capable of pushing forward that he shouldn’t get a soft lead.
David Hall’s Solar Hei Hei (Brett Prebble) could be the value play if a solid tempo eventuates, but he will need some luck and a great ride from his draw.
Earlier in the night, a drop back in trip and gate one puts E-Super (Zac Purton) back in the picture after a couple of disappointing displays over 1,200m to start the term.
The Manfred Man Ka-leung-trained sprinter won twice at the city track to close last term, but has struggled from wide gates at his first two this season.
E-Super was impossible to control first-up for Neil Callan as he ran off badly on the turns, before tiring, and then was only beaten a length and a half for Purton after pushing hard to lead.
Where the horse did show an improvement second-up was cornering, after finding a rail to follow, the same situation Purton will have here but by virtue of his draw, while E-Super may also be suited by a shorter trip.
Probable favourite for the Class Three will be Moment Of Power, with visiting Australian Hugh Bowman booked to ride, with the Paul O’Sullivan-trained talent chasing three straight victories over the course and distance.