A switch to Happy Valley from Sha Tin worked wonders for two John Size runners last Wednesday and Wisky should be the next to benefit from a change of scenery when the four-year-old contests the Tai Hang Tung Handicap.
Premiere and Love Shock gave Size two out of his three wins last week when they shifted to the smaller track, and competed against arguably softer opposition, after defeats at Sha Tin to start the season.
Wisky may not be quite as progressive as those two winners, but the European-bred four-year-old may still have some points in hand and has the added benefit of having won at Happy Valley previously over the same 1,650m course.
That surprise victory was late last term and there are a few common elements here aside from the course and distance.
Wisky gets the same jockey as when he broke through in June, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu replacing Joao Moreira, and barrier one on the “C” course should result in a similar box-seat run that he benefitted from that night as well.
On that occasion Ho sprung a surprise when he led from the extreme outside gate, before handing up and sitting behind the leader.
This time the challenge will be maintaining a close spot without burning too much fuel early if persisting when the pace is too hot.
Doing exactly that probably cost Wisky something in the finish first-up when third behind Home Run – a race where Moreira found himself in front a furlong from home and a sitting shot for the winner.
Last start, Moreira ended up worse than midfield in the run and Wisky had to weave between runners, but closed as well as could be expected for fourth – three-and-a-half lengths behind in-form sprinter World Record.
Wisky has returned with considerably more muscle on his frame this season and after two runs that have been solid, it was a little surprising to not see Moreira’s name down to ride.
Instead, he jumps off to ride Spinning Dancer and although he does look a danger after zipping home for second last time out, the draw really swings things in Wisky’s favour.
Spinning Dancer has rarely been ridden forward of midfield and barrier nine means he will need some amount of luck, while Wisky should naturally settle close in a race where the overall speed is hard to predict.
However it is run, the race set-up favours Wisky getting a rails run and allowing Ho to get one back over Moreira – something any young jockey would relish.
Of course, nobody is crying for Moreira, he has 53 winners already this season, and plenty of chances on the night as well.
One of the best is Manhattan Striker, an infuriating horse to try and catch this season, but with blinkers on and a low draw, the sprinter can break out of Class Five.
Manhattan Striker brings together the well-documented combination of Moreira on a Caspar Fownes-trained horse in Class Five – a set of circumstances that has already produced 10 winners from 21 runners this season.
Another wide draw hasn’t helped Telecom Boom (Neil Callan), but Me Tsui Yu-sak’s four-year-old might be creeping closer to a win, while Great Speed (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) will be in the market.
As far as frustrating goes, Manhattan Striker has nothing on Great Speed, who has started single figures in betting in each of his five starts this term and placed just twice – a complete lack of speed out of the gates making life difficult for him.