What do punters do with Thewizardofoz in Sunday’s Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m)? At his best, he is one of the region’s top racehorses, at his worst, he is an also-ran.
When John Size’s gelding destroyed his rivals in the Group Three Premier Cup (1,400m) in June, he became the equal highest-rated horse in Hong Kong alongside stablemate Mr Stunning.
It looked like the champion trainer had finally got on top of the injury issues and found the key to the Thewizardofoz, but he hasn’t really fired a shot this season.
The six-year-old went through the usual path to the Group One Hong Kong Sprint and while he was never disgraced in those three starts, he was never a winning chance.
He had a break after that and then went into the Chairman’s Sprint Prize first-up on April 29, but was out the back the whole race and never made any headway.
While that doesn’t provide much hope for Sunday’s race, he is sure to be fitter for the run and Thewizardofoz put in an eye-catching trial last week when finishing second to rival Lucky Bubbles. It could just be a tease, or it could be a pointer of better things to come.
There are no world beaters lining up for the HK$3 million contest. Of the field of eight, only three have won this season – Born In China, Dundonnell and Wah May Friend.
Thewizardofoz and Lucky Bubbles provide the class, but they also have to carry the weight.
Winner’s Way finished third in the Group Two Sprint Cup two starts back, and has to be considered one of the main dangers.
There should be at least an even pace with Fabulous One engaged and that could be all Thewizardofoz needs.
If he is close on the turn, he is capable of running over the top of his rivals. Will he? That’s another question.
Last year, he finished third in this race, just behind surprise winner Lucky Year and stablemate D B Pin before his supreme effort in the Premier Cup.
The best way to sum up Thewizardofoz’s chances is the classic form guide comment – “take on trust”.
Another horse who has frustrated punters recently is the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Sacred Ibis.
The four-year-old clearly has a lot of ability, but he keeps making life hard for himself.
He doesn’t have a lot of early speed and tends to settle well back, therefore when he comes to the turn he has a mountain of ground to make up.
While Sacred Ibis boasts the best finishing burst of his rivals (fun fact: in his past five races no horse has run a final 400m sectional faster than him), sometimes he just leaves himself too much to do.
After The gelding drops back to 1,400m for the Class Three California Memory Handicap, but top jockey Zac Purton jumps on for the first time.
From barrier six, the Australian is likely to try and settle just worse than midfield one-off the rail before swinging out and finding clear running in the straight and showing his rivals what he is made of.
Earlier in the day, Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Happy Sebring looks set to continue his progression through the grades when he steps out in the Class Four Mr Medici Handicap (1,400m).
The three-year-old was held up for the best part of 300m last start, before Douglas Whyte found a split late and he rushed through to win.
Because Happy Sebring only got home by three-quarters of a length, it saved him a bigger jump in the ratings, giving him another shot at Class Four and he should again prove too strong.