Vincent Ho Chak-yiu will be hoping to avoid the road blocks he ran into aboard Vital Spring last start on what looms as an interesting day in the saddle at Sha Tin for the local rider.
Ho’s rides include two highly credentialed imports, two winning hopes he describes as “hard work” to ride, but it is Vital Spring he ranks as his best chance in the Class Four Kalanchoe Handicap (1,400m).
“He has drawn well and is a great chance, as long as we don’t get boxed in and blocked for a run again,” Ho said.
Last time out, Ho had ridden Francis Lui Kin-wai’s gelding perfectly in the early stages, bouncing the five-year-old out from gate six to find the box seat and rating his horse nicely behind a solid tempo.
Ho had plenty of horse under him at the top of the straight but when he went to make his run he was shouldered back into the box seat by Nash Rawiller on Smiling Charm.
Vital Spring regathered after being forced to check off heels and made good ground late to finish just half a length behind Sonic Fighter and returns to the course and distance two weeks later.
“He should have won, no doubt, but he was very unlucky,” Ho said. “I have ridden him in work since and if he holds his form, which he should, he will be hard to beat.”
Also in the highly credentialed import category for Ho are New Zealand Group Two winner Sumstreetsumwhere and twice Group Three-placed Irish prospect Arcada.
“It’s always difficult for horses first-up and both of them will be getting over more ground in the future,” Ho warned.
Ho has ridden Sumstreetsumwhere in two trials for trainer Caspar Fownes and although the three-year-old moved well late in his last trial, 1,200m might be too sharp in the Class Three Freesia Handicap (1,200m).
“That is the impression I got from his trials,” Ho said. “In saying that he got to the line OK last time.”
Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai has chosen the Class Three Hyacinth Handicap (1,400m) for Arcada’s first-up assignment and although a lead up trial indicates the four-year-old will benefit from the run he brings an impressive resume to the races.
Aside from placings in stakes races, Arcada’s 1,400m maiden win came against a field that included subsequent Irish Derby and English St Leger winner Capri, Zipping Classic winner The Taj Mahal and Hong Kong Mile fifth Lancaster Bomber.
With a rating of 85, Arcada was headed towards the 2018 BMW Hong Kong Derby before tendinitis sidelined the gelding and stalled his progress over the past 12 months.
The horses Ho describes as hard work are Golden Cannon and Diamond Dragon, a pair who always make jockeys earn their riding fees.
“Actually they both have ability, but you just need to try and calm them down or they can be very difficult to ride,” he said.
Golden Cannon’s quirks haven’t stopped him from rising from a rating of 24 with six placings from seven starts this term, including two wins from his last three starts.
Another win in the Class Five Cymbidium Handicap (1,200m) would put Golden Cannon into Class Four – a minor miracle given the gelding’s issues.
“Some horses are in Class Five because they just aren’t good enough, but he has some talent, it is his head that holds him back,” Ho said. “He has drawn a wide gate so it is going to take some riding to get him to win.”
Diamond Dragon has had his moments this season – or at least a moment – storming from last to win at big odds back in December.
Last time out, Rawiller tried to go forward on the headstrong sprinter-miler without success and Ho said he would be reverting to defensive tactics in the Class Three Oncidium Handicap (1,600m).
“I can see why they tried but I don’t think that’s the way I want to ride him,” Ho said. “You have to be careful on this horse because once he starts running off on you, you just can’t control him.”