It has been a year between drinks for Bullish Smart but the Tony Cruz-trained six-year-old strikes a race he can win at Happy Valley on Wednesday night in the Hong Kong Club Challenge Cup (1,650m).

Bullish Smart’s last win came over this track and distance in February last year and that victory, and a placing at his next run, took him into Class Two where battled to make a serious impression.

As a result, he has drifted back down the handicap, back to Class Three in November and now finds himself on just about the same mark as his winning rating.

And Bullish Smart (Silvestre de Sousa) has had excuses since the drop to this grade for not breaking back into the winner’s stall.

He has had barriers 11,12 and 11 and been forced to do some early work to get forward then battled on OK at the finish but might be a different proposition from gate two.

The likely front runners in the race look Cheerful Boy (Nash Rawiller), Bullish Smart and Classic Emperor (Alexis Badel) and if they all get too positive they’ll ruin their own chances.

De Sousa gets the opportunity to let the other two go, take some of the steam out of the speed, and grab the box seat, which should be the gold spot on the C+3 track. If he is saved for later in the race, Bullish Smart should finish off better than he has been.

His danger looks to be the in-form Big Bang Bong (Joao Moreira), who probably camps outside Bullish Smart in the run, also trailing the two leaders.

He took a few runs to get going but has now won two of his past three, one over the Valley 1,650m and most recently at Sha Tin over 1,400m.

Big Bang Bong didn’t have anything to spare at Sha Tin and probably looks on his mark, but there’s no sugar-coating it – he finds a very average Class Three populated with others in the same boat.