On the pace was the place to be at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, with the light bias that we see as often as not when the rail goes back in and that made the effort of Jolly Gains an eye-catcher in the second race.
The A course at Happy Valley is very fresh ground on the inside and often – not always but often – looks to give some help to horses racing forward and against the inside and the second event was the race that suggested it was in play to at least some extent on Wednesday.
The Tony Cruz-trained Contribution was pushed along early by the lightly weighted Grand Harbour, who ensured the winner would have to call on his stamina reserves to go all the way.
He was wobbling down the straight but scraped in from the fast -finishing Jolly Gains and, on a normal track, Contribution would not have held on after doing the work that he did in front.
But, if the victory showed the help he was getting, it also made the run of the second placegetter much more impressive coming from the rear.
Jolly Gains has looked once or twice like he is going to make into a handy galloper but he has remained lightly raced for a rising five-year-old with only seven starts now and he has had a few obstacles appear in his career too.
Three runs ago, he had suffered a heart irregularity in December which preceded a difficult trip behind Happy Rocky in February.
But his recent third to King’s Man over 1,800m had advertised he was pulling it all together and Wednesday night’s effort confirmed that.
By Savabeel out of a mare by an Epsom Derby winner Generous, there’s no doubt that Jolly Gains’ pedigree indicates he is bred to go quite a bit further than 1,650m, so Happy Valley probably saw him over his absolute minimum distance and he still performed well.
Peter Ho Leung has handled the gelding patiently and given him time to mature, but Jolly Gains now appears ready to go back up in distance and improve the bottom line to his form.