The all-weather track is where Money Money first showed some glimpses of talent and a return to the surface at Wednesday’s all-dirt meeting at Sha Tin should see trainer Benno Yung Tin-pang’s patience rewarded with a win in the Class Four Peacock Handicap (1,200m).
It took more than a year after Money Money arrived at Sha Tin for the son of Makfi to get to the races and when he did, Yung chose the dirt for his sprinter’s debut and first four starts.
More leg problems meant an arthroscopy in the break and a delayed start to the season but Yung has allowed Money Money time to build back into racing.
That time paid off with a career-best showing last start that put the writing on the wall for a win on Wednesday.
Money Money was trapped three wide with no cover for the trip over 1,200m on the turf but still fought on gamely to hang on for third behind Super Missile.
A switch back to Sha Tin’s more forgiving dirt surface should suit the five-year-old, especially given his previous efforts and history of leg problems.
The gelding even received another one-point ratings drop for his third in the race – which admittedly wasn’t the strongest Class Four – and now Money Money gets in well with 120 pounds.
Barrier two is perfect for a horse who usually begins well and has enough early speed to hold a prominent position for jockey Chad Schofield.
The card is full of course specialists who will relish a return to their preferred surface but it might also pay to watch out for horses heading to the track for the first time who have shown dirt ability in trials.
One such horse is Richard Gibson’s five-year-old Navas, who heads to the inner circuit after 13 starts in Hong Kong for the first section of the Class Four Peacock Handicap (1,200m).
When Navas won his second start for Gibson he seemed like a horse who could win again but has struggled since, finishing unplaced in his next 10, including in four runs this season.
He has put in some encouraging trials on the AWT though, including one particularly eye-catching effort late last season.
The trial wasn’t super fast but Navas worked to the line alongside proven dirt track performer Pablosky and seemed to be doing things just as easily as his rival.
Gibson has switched to the dirt to coincide with his gelding getting a drop into Class Four for the first time and the former French-based trainer has called upon leading French hoop Pierre-Charles Boudot to ride.
It has been well-publicised how good trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Class Five record is but when boiled down to Class Five dirt races, his strike rate is even better.
Lor’s strike rate in the bottom grade has been exceptional in his first season as he turns the careers of his stable transfers around.
Lor has won 16 of 41 at 41 per cent in Class Five this season and nearly 60 per cent of his runners have placed in cellar grade.
Stripped down to dirt races, that percentage jumps again, with the trainer victorious with five of the eight Class Five runners he has had on the surface.
One of those wins was with Furious Pegasus (Schofield) and a better draw will make the six-year-old hard to beat in the Swan Handicap (1,800m).
Furious Pegasus had already won on the turf when he claimed a decisive dirt victory in December and was sent out a 3.2 favourite to do the same last month.
A tricky draw put Furious Pegasus in an awkward position and Schofield elected to go back to near last.
Furious Pegasus stormed home for second behind Sempiternal and it was only the barrier and race position that beat him.
Back over the same course and distance, and with a spot closer in the run, Furious Pegasus can win his way out of the grade.