Chris So Wai-yin’s Eighty Eighty looks well-placed to break his maiden on Saturday at Sha Tin and might even start attractive odds without the “Joao Moreira-factor” as Nash Rawiller takes over from the suspended superstar.
On the strength of some impressive trials, Eighty Eighty was sent out 1.7 favourite for his debut on November 11 but was brought unstuck by a wide barrier.
Sparkling Dragon dictated the race from in front while Moreira was left languishing three-deep with no cover after looking for a place just forward of midfield.
Eighty Eighty still put in an admirable effort to run on for second and has since trialled well.
Sparkling Dragon, who could start favourite in Saturday’s Griffin Trophy, has won again while third-placegetter Noble Steed also franked the form when he broke through last weekend.
This time Eighty Eighty gets barrier three for the Class Four Tai Long Tsui Handicap (1,200m), a skinny-looking race that contains three first starters and at least four horses rapidly dropping towards Class Five.
The market could be in for a shake-up if standby starter Super Missile gets a run after he charged home for second on debut a few weeks back as 1.3 top pick.
But as it stands Eighty Eighty will start pronounced favourite but the Rawiller for Moreira switch might mean more reasonable odds for the four-year-old.
The John Size-trained Infinity Endeavour is another likely favourite also drawn well and heading back to the races without Moreira in the Class Three Luk Wu Handicap (1,200m).
Sam Clipperton seems the main beneficiary of Moreira’s absence, picking up the ride on Infinity Endeavour as well as four other hopes from the stable.
Infinity Endeavour, by Fastnet Rock and out of stakes-winning mare Black Mamba, has a pedigree that screams stamina but it seems like sprinting will be the four-year-old’s forte for now.
Stretched to a mile last season, Infinity Endeavour was sharp in dirt trials with pacifiers on and then won impressively in the same gear at Happy Valley on December 6.
Again, the jockey switch might take the edge off the price for a horse that would have started deep odds-on favourite with Moreira aboard.
One horse who hasn’t needed Moreira to start deep odds-on favourite for four straight wins is Hot King Prawn (Zac Purton) and the boom three-year-old is out to build on his unbeaten record in the Class Two Chek Keng Handicap (1,000m).
After Hot King Prawn’s soft last start win trainer John Size pledged to make the speedster’s progression through the grades as gentle as possible and as far as Class Two sprints go, this race looks ideal.
Barrier two throws an extra degree of difficulty at Hot King Prawn, as does the 12-point rise in the ratings from his last start and stronger opposition.
Working in Hot King Prawn’s favour is an 11-horse field that means that Purton will be trying to manoeuvre from a spot nine horses from the best ground on the grandstand side, not from 13 horses across, as the case would have been with a capacity field.
Purton also rides one of the of most talked about prospects for next year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby, Exultant, in the Class Two Long Ke Handicap (2,000m).
A two-time winner over a mile in Ireland when racing as Irishcorrespondent, Exultant was then third behind Churchill in the Group One Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Exultant showed he had come to hand quickly for trainer Tony Cruz with a first-up fifth over 1,400m before flashing home for second behind Fifty Fifty in the Chevalier Cup on November 26.