Trainer Almond Lee is ready to fight for his career over the final eight meetings and hopes a drop in grade can bring about a change in luck for Autopay in the Class Five Ho Sheung Heung Road Handicap (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Saturday.
If Lee, along with fellow trainer Derek Cruz, receives a third strike for failing to reach the performance criteria he is likely to lose his licence.
While Cruz’s situation seems dire – he needs seven winners from the final eight meetings to avoid a show cause meeting with Jockey Club officials – the equation for Lee seems much more achievable.
Lee needs three wins to take him to 16 and ensure survival for at least one more term.
“I’m not feeling sorry for myself, I’m positive and I’m fighting,” Lee said. “I’m not avoiding how critical the situation is either, at this critical moment the only thing I can say is I have to believe in myself and not change from the ways I have been taught. I’ve been in similar situations before and came through.”
While Lee went to great lengths not to make excuses, he did point to a large number of minor placings for his stable this season as an example that luck may not have been on his side.
“I’ve only had 13 winners but I have had 21 seconds, 18 thirds and 35 horses run fourth. That tells me my horses are running well, and ready to win, and if you change a few of those close results around I would already be there.”
Also in Lee’s favour is that he has a relatively healthy number of horses, with 32 on his books – even if many of them are stuck in the lower grades.
“I have lost a few horses for that reason, I had a lot of Class Four and Class Five horses stuck racing at similar distances and couldn’t find races for them and they were transferred,” he said.
A couple of honest efforts up in Class Four give the trainer confidence as Autopay (Douglas Whyte) drops into Class Five and switches to the dirt for the first time in search of a maiden Hong Kong victory.
“He hasn’t been far away in Class Four at Happy Valley and I think if he brings the same form over to Sha Tin he can go close,” Lee said.
Autopay is one of three runners for the stable on Saturday and while rated the biggest hope by early markets, Lee feels Namjong Plus is his best chance stepping up in trip in the Class Three Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Handicap (1,800m).
“He has been racing well at a mile but I think he is now getting up to his best distance,” Lee said, while also making a case for Mega Treasure (Victor Wong Chun) in the Class Four Lei Yue Mun Public Riding School Handicap (1,600m).
“He ran well with the apprentice on two starts back and with no weight on his back he can be competitive.”