Almababy’s only victory of the season came in January but he finds virtually identical circumstances in Wednesday night’s Class Three Cafeteria Handicap (1,200m) at Sha Tin so he looks well-placed to repeat the dose.
This is basically a carbon copy of the race the Me Tsui Yu-sak-trained seven-year-old prevailed in – an extended ratings band Class Three (85-60), the same distance, the same track, while he has the same rating (84) and the same weight (132 pounds).
There are two main differences – Derek Leung Ka-chun replaces the now disqualified Nash Rawiller as the pilot and he has drawn barrier eight after having gate two last time around.
On that occasion, Almababy settled fourth in running before finding clear running in the straight and coming away to beat Winning Vangogh by half a length.
He probably won’t be able to settle as close on Wednesday night from the barrier, but that could be offset with the likelihood of a strong pace.
All Great Friends (Jack Wong Ho-nam) and Sunny Win (Ben So Tik-hung) are noted front-runners, while Zac Purton is also likely to push forward from the outside barrier on Blocker Dee as that’s where he does his best work.
And it doesn’t end there because Nuclear Power (Alberto Sanna), Wakey (Eddy Lai Wai-ming) and Golden Sun (Matthew Chadwick) could all be prominent from good gates.
With that extra speed, it should allow Leung to slot in from his awkward gate in the field of 12, even if he is a pair or two further back, before launching his attack in the straight.
Almababy has won his past three races in Class Three, while he tuned up for this assignment by beating Winner’s Way and Raging Storm, both winners on Sunday, in a recent trial. He is the one to beat.
Outside Almababy, the runner who creates the most interest is Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Solomon’s Bay.
The European import makes his Hong Kong debut, having won three races in Great Britain, including the Listed Surrey Stakes (1,400m) at Epsom.
One of those victories was over 1,200m on the synthetic track at Kempton, which bodes well for how he will handle Sha Tin’s all-weather surface.
The four-year-old has trialled well ahead of this, finishing second to subsequent Kranji Mile winner Southern Legend on May 18.
Solomon’s Bay carries the top weight for this event, with Karis Teetan taking the ride from barrier seven, and is one to keep an eye on.