Neil Callan is hopeful a low draw can bring out the best in Winston’s Lad when the honest sprinter looks to break a long losing streak in a competitive Class Three at Sha Tin on Saturday.
It’s fair to say Winston’s Lad is better than his record of two wins from 20 starts indicates.
Those two wins came at Winston’s Lad’s first two Hong Kong starts, the last of them on International Day in 2015, and took the Australian import’s rating to 80.
The gelding wasn’t completely out of his depth, going within a nose of winning off a mark of 79, and it is only consistency that has kept Winston’s Lad up in the top of the grade.
Francis Lui Kin-wai’s six-year-old seemed to be getting closer to a win late last term, placing in three of his last four starts, capped by a third with Callan aboard in June.
“He missed what would have been the last run with a slight setback, but hopefully he can pick up where he left off last season,” Callan said. “The form around him looks good to me, and even though this field looks quite strong, I think he should be competitive.”
Winston’s Lad lines up in the Class Three Woodpecker Handicap (1,400m) with barrier two, from where he looks like getting an advantageous run just behind the speed.
“The draw is really important for him, he has been running over the top of them from wide gates but just hasn’t been suited by tempo or the way races have panned out,” he said. “He has been doing it from tricky draws, and whenever he has a good draw it seems to me that he has gone very close.”
Also drawn ideally is Rhode Assassin, with Callan as confident as one can be with a horse that hasn’t really threatened to win in 16 starts and has started triple figure odds on 13 occasions.
“But he seems to have taken to the dirt quite well,” Callan said, with the five-year-old having ran an encouraging second on July 1.
Rhode Assassin returns to the same course and distance first-up in the Class Five Lark Handicap (1,650m) against a similar level of opposition.
“That was a good run, his trainer (David Ferraris) has really looked after him and he hasn’t been over-raced,” Callan said. “Look, he is in Class Five for a reason, he is nothing special, but he can just follow on with what he did late last season then I would like to think he can break through at this level.”
Callan has four rides with Momentum Lucky looming as an outside chance in the Class Two Chinese Recreation Club Challenge Cup (1,000m).
“Last time he raced over this course and distance he was able to win a good Class Three, and of course this is harder, but if he breaks clean and gets a good position maybe he can run a good race,” he said.