The Caspar Fownes-trained Sky King looks to have found his niche in life on the all-weather track and the big gelding can keep his unbeaten record intact by winning the Cymbidium Handicap (1,650m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
In the absence of a trophy race, the Class Two over the extended mile looks the day’s fast class race and Sky King (Douglas Whyte) should make the transition to Class Two.
He won twice last season, at Happy Valley over 1,200m and Sha Tin over 1,400m, showing some promise for the future, especially when he got out over longer distances.
Fownes tried without success to get Sky King to fulfil that promise on turf early in this season and the horse was a touch disappointing until his trainer decided to try the dirt with the four-year-old in January.
The move brought an instant dividend as the tempo of dirt racing and the more forgiving surface under foot looked to suit the son of Jet Spur and he surged home from midfield to win in Class Three.
A return to Happy Valley followed, over 1,800m, but Sky King was given his chance and finished third but didn’t have the same impact.
That may have been because 1,800m stretched him or because he is better suited on the dirt but Fownes went back to the dirt mile again on March 1. Again it proved the winning switch and Sky King sat back off a strong lead pace and charged home to land the prize in the final strides.
He moves up in grade but stays on the surface, with a decent weight drop and, most importantly, the likelihood of another sternly run race.
The 10-pound claiming apprentice, Dylan Mo Hin-tung rides the very quick Flying Moochi, who should be able to head them off and doesn’t usually wait around when he finds the front. There is also pace from Pablosky and, potentially, apprentice-ridden Hit The Bid and Travel First will be pushing forward too to ensure the leader doesn’t get to take a breather.
So Sky King gets every chance to replicate the circumstances of his two dirt wins over the same distance and he will be running on strongly in the final 100m.
Look for improvement here from the John Size-trained Big Bang Bong (Karis Teetan) as a strong danger as he was too close to a hot lead pace last time out dropping back to 1,400m on the turf and shapes as another who might appreciate going to the dirt.
A soft track winner before he arrived in Hong Kong, Big Bang Bong has probably done better at Happy Valley than Sha Tin turf, though he has won on the latter.
That usually translates to being a dirt performer and he coped well enough with this track early in the season, though before his form really started to come together.