American-based rider Florent Geroux gets his first look at Happy Valley on Wednesday night but has the rides to overcome that disadvantage and take out a wide open Longines International Jockeys’ Championship title.
That Valley experience isn’t the insurmountable disadvantage it might seem, as last year’s IJC winner Gavin Lerena showed at his first appearance around the city track, and Geroux has the two other vital ingredients for victory – some decent rides and suitable draws.
History shows that the winner probably needs two victories to take the IJC title and Geroux has some winning hopes but don’t expect a big start.
The opening leg from a wide draw might prove beyond Secret Agent, and if this was just any normal Happy Valley midweek card we’d be looking at Pat Smullen’s ride, Powermax, as one of the night’s better bets after his excellent third behind D B Pin in a high-rating race on debut over this course.
The second leg looks a race for Ryan Moore with the Tony Millard-trained Giant Turtle, whose two runs for the new yard have advertised his prospects of a breakthrough win, but Geroux is one of a number of riders with prospects of points on honest front-runner Sparkling Sword in a race without much pace. Sparkling Sword will give his all up the front end as usual and it will be no surprise if he is in the finish.
Geroux’s best chance comes up with improved John Size-trained four-year-old Works Of Art in the third leg. The gelding has stepped up a notch with every race start and typical of Size’s horses, he shapes to continue that progression.
Then the American representative gets another winning chance in a very open final leg of with Valley specialist Royal Partner. This is a very tough affair and a great finale for the series with probably seven or eight possible winners, but with a low draw and light weight, Royal Partner is going well enough to prove a frontline chance.