Trainer David Hall has turned to Happy Valley’s top jockey Zac Purton as he sends in-form runners Lucky Time and Nuclear Power to the city track on Wednesday night.
With nearly two-thirds of the season gone, Purton trails Joao Moreira in the overall jockeys’ championship by nine wins but the Australian clearly has the upper hand at the Valley.
Purton has ridden 29 of his 74 winners at the smaller track at a strike rate of 18 per cent, good enough to be six wins ahead of Moreira (23 wins at 16 per cent) in the unofficial “Happy Valley championship”.
Hall’s early season struggles have been well documented but it was only a matter of time before his 146-race losing run was snapped and now it is a matter of turning his many seconds and thirds into wins.
The Australian handler went winless from October through to mid-February but there were plenty of unlucky placegetters during that horror run, including Lucky Time and Nuclear Power.
Lucky Time might have been the most agonising of those good things beaten when he was edged by a short-head in a photo by Planet Star over 1,400m at Sha Tin four days before the run of outs ended.
That heartbreaker was followed by another second three weeks later over a mile, this time to Telecom Man.
The handicapper spared Lucky Time a ratings increase and the five-year-old stays in Class Four as he heads across town for the first time to contest the Pedder Street Handicap (1,650m).
Lucky Time won over 1,000m at Sha Tin earlier in the season but now might be the right time to try the extended mile.
Barrier eight on the C course does not look great on paper but that is where Purton’s brilliance kicks in.
Lucky Time has enough early speed to get a position but has proven adept enough when racing from back in the field as well.
Even though Lucky Time has not raced at the track yet, his easy winning trial there earlier this season was an encouraging sign.
Nuclear Power has caused just as much heartache as his stablemate this term, losing by a head at his last two starts.
Both of those runs were on the all-weather track at Sha Tin and in competitive races where things did not go quite to plan.
Nuclear Power’s only race experience at the Valley was when he was outpaced over 1,200m and the step up to 1,650m – the same distance he has been racing at on dirt recently – should suit.
Purton replaces apprentice Matthew Poon Ming-fai and again must navigate a passage from a tricky gate.
Barrier nine is admittedly a blow in the Class Three Man Yiu Handicap (1,650m), but if Nuclear Power brings his recent dirt form to the surface he will be hard to beat.
The biggest threat and likely favourite is Peter Ho Leung’s Don’t Miss, with Moreira taking over from apprentice Dylan Mo Hin-tung.
Don’t Miss also draws gate two after working hard to get across from barrier 12 last start before finishing a game second to Har Har Heart.
Har Har Heart then franked the form, handling a nine-point rating rise with ease two weeks ago.
Moreira has also drawn a plum gate as he gets on Golden Glory for the first time in the Class Four Finance Street Handicap (1,200m).
Golden Glory won his way out of Class Five with two course and distance wins late last year and after being well beaten at Sha Tin, he has returned with two more solid performances.
Francis Lui Kin-wai’s seven-year-old has faced pressure tactics at his last two starts and given an easy time from barrier two will make the difference.