Veteran jockey Douglas Whyte wants to send departing trainer Michael Freedman out in style on Wednesday night when he hops aboard the lightly raced Bellagio.
Whyte has ridden the horse twice this season already, but concedes a gear change along with giving the horse his first start at Happy Valley is one of the few options left available to Freedman for what he describes as an “awkward horse”.
While he has finished strongly over 1,200m and 1,400m trips, the four-year-old has continually found himself out of luck, due to his tendency to lay in when turning for home.
He will line up over a 1,650m trip for the first time in the Class Four Shek Pik Handicap.
“I think up in trip is a positive, it’s the last draw out of the hat really,” he said. “Beside being a bit of an unlucky horse, he is his own worst enemy in that he hasn’t got the speed for these 1,200m and 1,400m races to put himself in a prominent position and if he gets trapped wide he tends to want to lean in when he turns for home.
“He is a bit of an awkward horse but I am hoping that up in distance and the tighter circle of Happy Valley will be able to keep his momentum going and he needs an ounce of luck.”
Bellagio’s bad habits were there for all to see during his last start at Sha Tin where Whyte was caught three wide after a slow start.
Despite his flaws, he has been able to run on strongly, giving Whyte hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“I have trialled him at the Valley before and I have sat on him quite a few times, there is certainly ability,” he said.
“He’s got untapped ratings in hand but it’s a mental game for him. Whether he puts his best foot forward or not – when he is going to do that, I don’t know – but I am hoping it’s Wednesday night.
“We’re hoping the blinkers will keep him a little bit more focused and concentrated and make my job easier, because he is a bit of a nightmare.”
While Freedman has used a wide variety of jockeys during his short stint in Hong Kong, he has frequently turned to the experienced Whyte.
“It would be lovely [to send him out a winner], he has given me some support and besides the support he is a lovely individual and I just wish I could send him on his way with a winner,” he said.
It comes as Karis Teetan is hoping to make it three wins on the trot for speedy sprinter Blitzing who steps up to Class Three company for the first time.
The Tony Cruz-trained gelding was dominant last start, winning by three lengths, but the handicapper noticed and increased his rating by 10 points.
“He is a straightforward horse because he has so much speed, he gets himself into a good position. Sooner or later he was always going to climb up the ratings ladder,” Teetan said.
The promotion in grade sets up a tantalising race between Blitzing and the eye-catching Caspar Fownes-trained Perfect Glory.
Fownes will be hoping to make it two wins in three starts for his Australian import who has flashed home in his two starts to date.