Trainer Peter Ho Leung may have Group One BMW Hong Kong Derby aspirations for Baba Mama but a big weight pull and better barrier swing things in favour of fellow four-year-old Unicron Jewellery on Saturday at Sha Tin.
Baba Mama has won four from nine to reach a rating of 80 and steps back up to a mile in the Lukfook Jewellery Beloved Collection Handicap, a Class Three where the four-year-old will carry top weight of 133 pounds.
If Ho wants Baba Mama to force his way into the first leg of the four-year-old series, the Group One Hong Kong Classic Mile on January 22, the gelding probably needs another win on Saturday to get into the field.
John Size’s last start winner Unicron Jewellery (Joao Moreira) stands in Baba Mama’s way though and can continue on his way up the ratings after drawing barrier one on the “C + 3” course in a race where he looks like being gifted a lovely run.
Unicron Jewellery has already showed he can maintain a forward spot from low draws, and he needs to as well, as he is more of a grinder than a horse that blows rivals away with his turn of foot.
The race seems like it will favour those in the front half of the field, with few able to take up prominent spots – and that includes Baba Mama, who will be sitting worse than midfield along with some other chances.
On exposed form, Baba Mama’s best is probably better than that of Unicron Jewellery, but when taking into account the relative experience of each horse and projected upside, Size’s horse has the edge – especially at the weights.
Baba Mama ran well in a competitive Class Two last time at 1,400m , but now drops back in grade with the big weight on his back and has to give Unicron Jewellery 17 pounds if Moreira claims two pounds over the allocated 114 pounds, as indicated.
International Sales Griffins like Unicron Jewellery can make major leaps from start to start early, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the son of Savabeel take a big step forward here.
There are some other four-year-olds in the race that have shown some promise, including Richard Gibson’s Winfield (Douglas Whyte), an Australian import that has worked home solidly a few times now.
Winfield might need further in time, and a suitably hard-run race at a mile to show his best – something that is unlikely here.
The Paul O’Sullivan-trained Starship (Neil Callan) is another to keep a watch on. He ran on for second behind Jing Jing Win on debut before being lumbered with wide draws and tough runs at his next two starts.
Connections of a number of progressive types will fancy their chances in the Lukfook Jewellery Gold Charisma Collection Handicap, but a better draw and jockey change will help Metallic Star break through for the first time this term.
Metallic Star is no superstar, but in Class Four and over 1,400m at Sha Tin, the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained eight-year-old finds the right race at the right time.
From gate four, in-form visitor Craig Williams should find a handy spot in another race lacking the overall tempo that will help back-markers.
It could be another big day for Size, with Big Bang Bong (Moreira) chasing back-to-back wins and drawn well in three as he come back to what looks a suitable 1,400m course.
It took a while for the three-year-old to find his feet in Hong Kong, but the European import should continue to improve with more racing.