Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai looks to have a great hand in the Happy Valley Vase (1,800m) and might even pull off an upset with Jolly Banner trying a distance for the first time.
Yiu saddles up the eight-time Valley winner and possible pacemaker Packing Dragon (Matthew Poon Ming-fai), who is looking to post three straight wins at the track but his second stringer Jolly Banner (Jack Wong Ho-nam) is also of interest with a nice run from the draw and a claim.
Jolly Banner has a terrific record of 20 starts for five wins and 10 placings and ran his heart out when unable to hold off Dundonnell last start over 1,400m at Sha Tin at his first start for two months.
Jolly Banner’s query is that he has never raced beyond 1,650m. His only attempt at that distance was a second last year, giving six pounds in weight to a quality winner, Winner’s Way, so it’s hard to hang him on that.
And the other thing he has in his favour is that these 1,800m races at Happy Valley are often not stern tests of stamina and horses going up in distance can have a little more zip. Jolly Banner tumbles 11 pounds in handicap weight for that last run at Sha Tin and gate five should see Wong able to smother him away just behind the pace and then we’ll find out how well he runs 1,800m.
The pace is an open question, with a number who can go forward with some purpose but who may not due to wide gates or big weights.
One who will press forward if he breaks cleanly is Prawn Baba (Matthew Chadwick) and his rider is likely to use his light weight and put some pressure on early, as he is no distance doubt. If he or the other leaders overdo it though, Gold Mount (Alberto Sanna) has been running well in Group races all season from his usual position out the back and will be storming home.