Fox Sunter was getting closer to a win at the tail end of last term and a terrific preseason trial indicates he should break through with Joao Moreira aboard on Wednesday night.
Moreira swept half the card at Sunday’s season-opening meeting at Sha Tin and it could be another big night for the Brazilian at the first Happy Valley meeting of the season.
Francis Lui Kin-wai’s gelding looms as the Magic Man’s best chance, but certainly not his only one.
Fox Sunter started his career with three starts up the Sha Tin straight where he showed some good signs, but it was a switch to the smaller track that really seemed to spring the gelding to life.
Fox Sunter showed good gate speed in his final two runs at the Valley, sticking on for second both times and holding his form.
Those efforts were enough to say Fox Sunter would be winning this season, but a strong barrier trial up the straight at the preseason carnival suggested the five-year-old has come back stronger.
Keith Yeung Ming-lun was aboard in the 1,000m hit out in which Fox Sunter sat behind Household King and sauntered past late to finish first.
Of course, Household King has since won his debut easily, caning his more experienced rivals by two-and-a-half lengths on Sunday.
Household King was ridden relatively hard in the trial just to stick with Fox Sunter, who was cruising and still under a hold.
The Class Four Sheung Tak Handicap (1,200m) does look a tricky race on paper, but drawing barrier three makes it a much easier assignment.
The race contains a host of horses capable of leading, and Fox Sunter probably has enough gate speed to contest as well.
Moreira is likely to find a spot just behind the speed though and should be afforded a perfect run on the A course.
The horse that lowered Fox Sunter’s colours last start, Starlight (Nash Rawiller) still looks a danger despite meeting his rival five pounds worse off for that win.
Drawn nine, the back-marker will need a solid tempo and some luck, and the draw was not kind to likely improver Phantom Falcon (Derek Leung Ka-chun) either.
It is always important to take note of the off-season re-handicaps, especially when a horse drops in grade, and Moreira’s ride in the opening race, Sky Treasure, is likely to start favourite.
Me Tsui Yu-sak’s gelding was finding form at the end of his three-year-old season and now drops into Class Five for the Cheung Hong Handicap (1,200m).
Admittedly, an awkward draw and an unconvincing trial are negatives heading into the horse’s Class Five debut.
Moreira was aboard for Friday’s improved showing at trackwork and Sky Treasure should be a better horse this season at four.
Another who could win his way out of Class Five on Wednesday is the Caspar Fownes-trained seven-year-old Speedy Wally (Zac Purton).
Speedy Wally was a winner at the corresponding meeting last season and although the gelding has not trialled, his trackwork has the look of a horse set for another big first-up run.