Blinkers nearly brought about a first win in more than 860 days for Friends Of Ka Ying at Happy Valley last month and the six-year-old returns to the same course and distance with a better draw on Wednesday night.
Friends Of Ka Ying hasn’t won since defeating subsequent stakes winners Helene Paragon and Secret Weapon in a Class Two at Sha Tin in early 2016.
The Australian import was then with Benno Yung Tin-pang and arrived with Caspar Fownes midway through this term after a stint with Paul O’Sullivan.
Even though Friends Of Ka Ying hasn’t won for a long time, he hasn’t been terrible during his losing sequence, and in fact his consistency stopped him from dropping into Class Three sooner.
After two runs on the dirt for Fownes, Friends Of Ka Ying finally got the class drop he needed and the trainer duly switched to the city track.
Friends Of Ka Ying has been struck by awkward draws on each occasion since, coming up with barriers 12, seven and 11, leaving riders with the choice between pushing forward on a horse that doesn’t have natural gate speed, or surrounding ground and riding for luck.
Despite being disadvantaged by barriers, Friends Of Ka Ying has run well and went close to winning last start with blinkers on.
The six-year-old scooted home for second behind Pretty Bauhinia with his final 400m split of 22.88 seconds by far the fastest of the race.
Now Friends Of Ka Ying returns to the Valley for the Class Three Lotus Handicap (1,650m) with the benefit of barrier one with the rail in the C + 3 position.
Zac Purton again rides Friends Of Ka Ying and he should naturally land in a perfect trailing spot behind what looks like being an above average tempo set by the three claimers on Thunder Stomp (Victor Wong Chun), Right Call (Jack Wong Ho-nam) and Lucky Time (Matthew Poon Ming-fai).
For the most part, Fownes has thrown his support behind Purton this season in the battle with Joao Moreira for the jockeys’ championship.
Yet as the championship heads into another key night, Fownes has shared his four best chances between the two top jockeys.
Purton leads Moreira by three with four meetings remaining and the leading duo have two rides apiece for Fownes.
Purton sticks with Smart Baby as the five-year-old steps up in trip for the Class Four Gladiolus Handicap (1,800m).
Smart Baby was a strong second over the course and distance three starts ago and it looks the ideal trip for the gelding.
Moreira rode 19 winners at 37 per cent for Fownes last term but this season he has ridden just two wins from 30 rides for the stable.
The best of the Brazilian’s rides for Fownes is Amazing Race, backing up after a solid third under Purton at the Valley one week ago.
Amazing Race may have found his right mark and gets an ideal draw in the second section of the Class Four Carnation Handicap (1,200m).
Purton gave the lightly raced six-year-old every chance from barrier one last time and Moreira will be hoping the step up to 1,200m is a plus.