Joao Moreira returns from suspension on Wednesday at Sha Tin looking to continue his high strike rate on the dirt and for first season sensation Frankie Lor Fu-chuen when Diamond Friends shoots for back-to-back wins.
Moreira has missed the last two meetings because of a careless riding charge picked up in Melbourne on Caulfield Cup day and has rides in all eight races at the all-dirt fixture.
The Brazilian has won five of the 12 races held on the dirt track this year and four of five for Lor – trends that both look set to continue.
Diamond Friends was a dominant winner on the dirt first-up for Lor and looks to have plenty of ratings points in hand in the Class Five Wai Mei Shan Handicap (1,650m).
Diamond Friends was initially trained at Sha Tin by Lor’s former boss John Size but spent most of last season under the care of Gary Ng Ting-keung.
When Ng retired, Diamond Friends came to Lor rated 29 and while the six-year-old wasn’t a star when with Size, that mark did seem generous for a horse who had competed consistently well in Class Four.
Diamond Friends won twice for Size, both times over 1,650m on the dirt, but first-up in Class Five for Lor, the gelding won impressively and with something in hand.
That win was not only one of four for Lor, but all of Moreira’s wins for the trainer have been in Class Five.
Class Five horses have been the backbone of Lor’s amazing start, with eight wins in the grade coming from just 19 starts at a strike rate of 42 per cent.
Diamond Friends only rose five points in the ratings for that half-length win and has since trialled very well on the surface.
Moreira combines with another trainer he has shared a high strike rate with, Peter Ho Leung, when Gran Master carries top weight in the Class Four Tiu Yue Yung Handicap (1,650m).
Moreira’s combination with Ho stretches back to his very first night riding in Hong Kong and his two wins for the trainer helped him clinch the 2012 International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley.
Since then the duo have compiled an impressive record of 17 wins from 42 starts at a strike rate of 40 per cent.
One of those wins was on Gran Master first up this term and the grey was expected to win his way out of Class Four last start as $3 favourite.
Gran Master was a touch one-paced but probably not advantaged by drawing barrier one and this time gate seven will give the big-striding type more time and space to wind up.
The main danger is undoubtedly another of Lor’s promising transfers, dirt track specialist Imperial Concorde (Karis Teetan).
Imperial Concorde stormed home off the speed, weaving between runners in the straight, to finish just ahead of Gran Master last time and with more luck will be hard to hold out.
Moreira combines with leading trainer John Size in the Class Three Shek Uk Handicap (1,650m) when Red Marvel returns to his preferred course and distance.
Red Marvel was a surprising third on the turf at Happy Valley last start but the five-year-old’s only win in the last 18 months has been on Sha Tin’s all-weather surface.
A fascinating runner coming to the dirt for the first time is Chris So Wai-yin’s in-form front-runner Mythical Emperor (Jack Wong Ho-nam).
Barrier nine certainly makes matters harder for Mythical Emperor in the Class Three Pyramid Hill Handicap (1,200m) but if he can find the rail without too much work he will take some catching.
Mythical Emperor goes up eight points for his last start victory and the indications are that he will relish a run on the surface.
Mythical Emperor stormed away with a dirt trial on September 26, effortlessly putting five lengths on subsequent winners Generous Heart and Sacred Ibis.