It could be a case of fifth time lucky for Marvel Hero as the Caspar Fownes-trained Happy Valley specialist heads back to his favourite track for the Class Two Wong Nai Chung Handicap (1,800m) on Wednesday night.
Marvel Hero had already shown that he prefers that city circuit with a series of impressive performances late last season that included three wins by a combined nine-and-a-half lengths.
The common denominator each time was jockey Joao Moreira and he sticks with Marvel Hero for the third straight start as the six-year-old’s fourth run in 42 days at the track.
Those efforts have all been good, and the company he has been keeping has looked better since.
Singapore Sling beat Marvel Hero on December 27 and then placed in the Hong Kong Classic Mile behind Nothingilikemore, but the key form horse from the last three starts is Dinozzo.
Marvel Hero has finished just behind Dinozzo at three of his last four starts, including a fourth in the Group Three January Cup and a last start second over 1,650m last week.
Dinozzo then backed up four days later to cane rivals from in front in the Group Three Centenary Vase at Sha Tin and now Marvel Hero backs up at the Valley.
A step up to 1,800m may suit Marvel Hero more than the extended mile, particularly with the amount of racing he has had.
An eight-horse field and a solitary designated leader, Packing Dragon (Matthew Poon Ming-fai) gives this race a tricky look tactically, but the presence of some horses capable of making long, sustained sprints will ensure he won’t be able to go too slow down the back.
Prawn Baba (Sam Clipperton) is likely to be stalking the leader and although this is his first trip across town, he brings excellent dirt form – which can correlate with Valley form – and he has trialled there previously.
French jockey Alexis Badel gets a great chance to add to the list of trainers he has ridden winners for when Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s Spring Win shoots for three straight in the Class Three Russell Handicap (1,200m).
Badel has ridden five winners from the last four meetings and Yiu will be the seventh trainer he has ridden a winner for in what has been an excellent short stint.
Spring Win showed his December win was no fluke with a comprehensive display on January 10.
With Neil Callan unable to get down to 115 pounds, Badel has been called upon and been blessed with gate two in a race in which four key rivals drew wide.
Badel should be able to gain a nice sit just behind the speed while Breeders’ Star (Karis Teetan, gate nine), Smart Boy (Umberto Rispoli, 10) and Star Of Joy (Joao Moreira, 12) will have work to do from their barriers.
Michael Freedman-trained Famous Warrior (Zac Purton) has drawn well and done everything right in trials but his best form in Australia was over a mile, so perhaps he will find this too sharp first-up.
Danny Shum Chap-shing brings a strong team to the Valley, including last start winners Victory Follow Me (Zac Purton) and Good Days (Pierre-Charles Boudot), but one potential outsider to watch is Clear Choice (Tommy Berry).
Clear Choice has placed in just one of five starts but has been finding the line nicely and a step up in trip suits in the Class Four Percival Handicap (1,650m).