The Lukfook Jewellery Cup (1,600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday looks very straightforward work for Ping Hai Star – as long as the John Size-trained four-year-old can cope with a questionable tempo.
Size has a formidable bunch of four-year-olds going into January already but Ping Hai Star (Joao Moreira) has the ability to make himself at least a fringe candidate for the four-year-old races coming up if he can do everything right.
Sure, he is rated just 77 at present but his talent is definitely Class Two standard and will be at short odds to take himself into that grade.
Ping Hai Star looked promising in Australia, bolting home twice in Queensland provincial races, albeit against some pretty moderate opposition, and has backed that view up with his two Class Three starts in Hong Kong.
He flew home from last over 1,400m first-up when a wide draw meant he couldn’t get any closer than that but his latest run was both a confirmation of his promise and also a red flag for this race.
Better drawn that day for Zac Purton and stepping up to 1,600m, Ping Hai Star was expected to race closer but that soured soon after the start of the race.
Almost as he hit the ground, Ping Hai Star threw his head up and started to fight with Purton and, while the jockey was trying to switch him off, he got back in the field again.
He did manage to get onto the back of the eventual winner Morethanlucky in running but the energy he wasted fighting with Purton for a long way in the race meant that Ping Hai Star wasn’t able to overhaul him in the last 100m and had to settle for second.
With the possibility of a muddling tempo in Sunday’s race, punters will be hoping that Ping Hai Star has had the freshness and rough edges knocked off him now after two starts so that he will settle for Moreira.
If he does relax, then this race should be a formality for him, but a stop-start event might start him pulling again and compromise his chances once more.
Green Energy (Derek Leung Ka-chun) looks the obvious danger to the favourite, with some good form from wide barriers at the end of last season and now finding himself in gate two.
He does have the tactical speed to use that barrier and perhaps he could even lead them here if desired but Leung also has the option of the box seat run.
Green Energy has had excuses in two recent starts, getting too far back at Happy Valley first-up then having a blood in trachea issue after his flop last time behind Beauty Way.