A switch back to Sha Tin and some weight relief can bring about a second win of the season for Spanish-bred gelding Sangria as trainer David Ferraris sends a small but solid team to the races on Sunday.
Sangria is one of only two Spanish-bred horses in training at Sha Tin and became the first of them to win when he broke through at Happy Valley over 1,800m in January.
The five-year-old hasn’t finished worse than fourth since and the closest he came was a neck defeat over 2,000m two starts ago and the five-year-old returns to the same course and distance on Sunday.
With just eight rivals to contend with in the Class Three Uncompromising Integrity Handicap (2,000m), the biggest challenge looks like being if Sangria can get a suitable race set-up.
Jockey @neilcallan78 earned his 200th win in Hong Kong when guiding Sangria to a last-to-first score in Race 5 at our first of three Wines In The Valley nights at #HappyWednesdayHK pic.twitter.com/xQMSP7fWv5— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 17, 2018
Getting a genuine tempo with small fields in middle-distance events is always a concern and there are only two horses engaged that make a habit of racing close to the speed.
Cloud Nine, with apprentice Victor Wong Chun up, looks the obvious leader by default, with Good Days (Alberto Sanna) sitting off him.
Sangria won’t be far away though and the key looks like being Matthew Poon Ming-fai’s five-pound claim.
Poon is battling for the Tony Cruz Award as the leading local rider with Derek Leung Ka-chun, with the “Poon train” just three wins behind heading into the fifth-last meeting of the season.
One of the surprises of the season for Ferraris has been Chater Thunder for the HK Cricket Club Syndicate, a group of loyal, long-time supporters of the stable.
Chater Thunder (Neil Callan) isn’t a superstar by any means but has found his speciality and should pay his way provided he stays sound.
The dirt is Chater Thunder’s forte and the four-year-old returns to his favourite course and distance looking for a third win for the term in the Class Four Continuous Development Handicap (1,650m).
Chater Thunder is another who is racing consistently and has drawn well again in a race where he should get a perfect run just behind the speed.
The stable’s other two runners are worth keeping a watch on with Soccer Brave and Amazing tackling winnable races.
It took all of Alberto Sanna’s trademark vigour to get Soccer Brave to win last start and Ferraris has gone for Wong’s 10-pound allowance in an effort to eek out a third win for the term.
Soccer Brave remains in cellar grade and tackles the Racing Goes On Handicap (1,650m).
Sanna has retained the ride on Amazing in the Sporting Exchange Handicap (1,400m)
Amazing is likely to start double-figure odds in what is a competitive Class Three but could run into a place if the four-year-old can reproduce anything like his fast-finishing fourth from last start.
The Class Four Riding High Together (1,400m) looms as the key race in the battle between Zac Purton and Joao Moreira for the jockeys’ championship with the two top riders drawn on the leading hopes.
Moreira hops aboard the John Size-trained three-year-old Picken as the youngster heads to the races for the first time after seven local trials and five more in Australia.
Picken is likely to start strong in markets but keep a close watch on Purton and Royal Mojito, with the more seasoned sprinter drawn to get a stalking run along the rail from barrier one.