Three horses returning to Happy Valley with better barriers after solid last start efforts – E-Super, Merrygowin and Healthy Luck – all look good bets as the city track hosts its only daytime fixture of the season.
It was only an awkward barrier that stopped E-Super from winning last start and now a low draw, plus some relief in the form of Matthew Poon Ming-fai’s claim, can help Manfred Man Ka-leung’s sprinter continue his strong early season form.
E-Super gets another chance in the Class Three Shum Wan Handicap (1,000m) after the six-year-old was beaten by a whisker over the course and distance last time out.
On that occasion, barrier six and some early pace meant Tommy Berry was forced to give up race position to find a one-out spot.
Berry did the right thing opting out of the speed battle and found a trailing spot just behind midfield.
E-Super isn’t the easiest ride though, with a tendency to hang on the tight bends at the Valley, and ended up three-wide for much of the turn.
Poon gets back on after riding the gelding to a dominant first-up victory and his seven pound allowance means E-Super gets in much better at the weights here.
The key is barrier three though, from where Poon can have E-Super in a more prominent spot – beneficial for a horse who it seems can prove difficult to ride a pretty race on.
Paul O’Sullivan’s sprinter Merrygowin (Zac Purton) is in a similar situation in the Class Four Island Handicap (1,200m), dropping to a better draw after finishing runner-up over the course and distance at his last start.
Purton hauled Merrygowin back to last just over two weeks ago and the five-year-old motored home last to finish a length away from Happy Fiery Dragon.
Merrygowin is yet to run a bad race in six starts, his worse finish is fourth, and now he gets barrier one.
O’Sullivan’s horse isn’t really a fast beginner, but has been able to find handy spots in the run previously in sprint races at Sha Tin, and should be either in the box seat or three-back on the fence if the pace is stronger.
Like many veteran riders 13-time champion jockey Douglas Whyte has endured a tough start to the season but on Wednesday broke through for his second victory on Cloud Nine.
Whyte retains the ride on Healthy Luck in the Class Three Po Chong Wan Handicap (1,200m) and the consistent four-year-old should be right in the mix again.
Healthy Luck drew 11 first-up but, unlike E-Super and Merrygowin, Whyte elected to go forward and take up his usual handy position.
For a moment, Whyte looked like he would take a hold and find a midfield spot but was forced to press on and use vital energy early.
Whyte never really stopped riding Healthy Luck throughout and it was a terrific effort to be beaten by only Starlight and Grace Heart, horses who enjoyed a far more comfortable run in transit.
The form has been franked with Starlight winning his third straight on Wednesday and Grace Heart running a nice race in third behind him.
Not that the confidence around Healthy Luck’s form needed much of a boost, with Manfred Man Ka-leung’s gelding winning twice and missing a place just twice in eight starts as a three-year-old.
Healthy Luck should have returned a more seasoned horse at four and gets a golden chance to move up the ratings.
This looks a tough assignment for Class Three, but from barrier four Whyte can give Healthy Luck a softer run than last time out.