The Group Three January Cup can’t come soon enough for Caspar Fownes’ Happy Valley specialist Marvel Hero but for now a Class Two over what looks the five-year-old’s pet distance on Wednesday night seems ideal.
Marvel Hero put in a series of stunning efforts on the city track last season – notching the first of three wins on International Jockeys’ Championship night 12 months ago – pushing his rating well into triple figures.
Fownes has won the January Cup twice with Noble Conqueror in 2010 and 2011 and is targeting the feature with Marvel Hero, who seems to be building towards his best.
Marvel Hero has been running on without threatening in five starts at Sha Tin so far this season, but a last start fourth, beaten just two-and-a-half lengths by Fifty Fifty in the Chevalier Cup, showed he might be ready to strike.
The bonus for Fownes has been that while Marvel Hero’s form and fitness has been building, his rating has been dropping, and the gelding gets into Wednesday’s Brazil Handicap (1,800m) with 132 pounds.
Another plus was drawing barrier two, from where jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu should get an ideal run.
Many were surprised not to see leading jockey Joao Moreira’s name besides Marvel Hero when fields were released but the Brazilian will stick with in-form stayer Dinozzo – and the four-year-old could start favourite based on that decision.
Last season’s four-year-old series might have come too soon for Dinozzo but he arrives in this race off a strong last start win at Sha Tin and has an excellent course and distance record.
Barrier 10 means Moreira is likely to settle worse than midfield, or risk being stuck wide, but in his favour is the likelihood of at least an even tempo.
Another chance drawn wide is 2018 Hong Kong Derby hopeful The Golden Age (Matthew Chadwick), who led all the way in impressive fashion last start over 1,650m at the Valley and should press forward again from gate 12 of 12.
Cruz was full of praise for the French-bred three-year-old after the first-up showing, call him a “rising star” and “full of potential” but flagged the fact he would be keeping the lightly famed gelding’s runs spaced before next month’s Hong Kong Classic Mile.
“He is still fairly immature even now and has growing to do,” Cruz said after the win.
The omen tip might be Brazilian import Salto Olympico (Karis Teetan) but he will need to show sharp improvement with blinkers on first time if he is to turn things around after a lacklustre first start and one-paced trials.
Moreira teams with the Siu family and Size again when he rides four-year-old Infinity Endeavour in the Class Four United Kingdom Handicap (1,200m).
Infinity Endeavour’s breeding – by Fastnet Rock out of Grade One-winning mare Black Mamba – says this will be too sharp for a gelding who went closest to winning over a mile first time.
Still, even though Infinity Endeavour didn’t win in five starts as a three-year-old, he didn’t run a bad race either, placing four times and never finishing worse than fourth.
A recent trial suggested Infinity Endeavour has returned a more focused individual and barrier one is ideal for a horse that should be able to maintain a spot three back on the fence.
Infinity Endeavour has struck a tough race that includes in-form sprinters Ambitious Heart (Douglas Whyte), Sharpmind (Umberto Rispoli) and Show Mission (Derek Leung Ka-chun), but the one to watch could be Formula Galore (Neil Callan).
Formula Galore seems to be around his mark and fought on bravely for third last time out after was being stuck three-wide with no cover.