Star Irish jockey Oisin Murphy kicks off his four-meeting Hong Kong stint with a solid book of six rides at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Murphy spent three months at Sha Tin during the 2016-17 season, collecting four winners (he also returned to pick up another during the Champions & Chater Cup meeting in May), but he has broken out this year winning multiple Group Ones on global superstars Roaring Lion and Benbatl.
The 23-year-old has plenty of admirers in Hong Kong and answered the call to provide some extra depth for the riding ranks, which are depleted through injury and suspension.
Murphy’s best chance of the night might be the Richard Gibson-trained King Of Mongolia, who lines up in the Class Four St Andrew’s Challenge Quaich (2,200m).
The eight-year-old is down to a rating of 58 – the equal-lowest of his Hong Kong career and a mark he won off in July last year.
King Of Mongolia has been solid in his two starts this campaign, beaten two-and-a-half lengths by Po Ching Treasure when resuming before coming sixth to Ho Ho Feel at Sha Tin over 2,000m.
He returns to the city track for this assignment and should be able to slot in midfield from barrier eight.
King Of Mongolia’s biggest challenge could be the step up to 2,200m – it is the first time he has raced at the trip – but he did win third-up last season off a rating over 67 and this looks easier on paper.
His biggest challenger looks to be Benno Yung Tin-pang’s You Have My Word, a talented but injury-plagued galloper.
The seven-year-old has had just 14 starts since arriving in Hong Kong in 2015, but when he is right he has proven more than competitive.
Champion jockey Zac Purton jumped aboard for the first time last start and You Have My Word responded to take out an 1,800m Class Four at Sha Tin.
He has to carry the equal top weight of 133 pounds here, but has drawn well in barrier three and should get a gun ride from the Australian.
Murphy also looks to have a chance with the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Spring Win in the Class Four Jedburgh Handicap (1,200m).
Spring Win has been working home solidly in his past two starts – finishing fifth on both occasions – and his rating (51) is now lower than his most recent winning mark (54). The problem for the six-year-old is the barrier – he has drawn gate 10 again.
It is the same gate he has had in each of his previous runs and he has been trapped wide, so Murphy will need to work his magic to overcome the wide alley.
It is a competitive contest with the likes of Quadruple Double, Thou Shall Sing, Look Eras, Love Chunghwa and Flying Force all knocking on the door recently.
Murphy will remain at Sha Tin until the Longines Hong Kong International Races, where he will ride Salouen in the Hong Kong Vase.
The Sylvester Kirk-trained Salouen finished sixth to Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.
“It was about five seconds after Oisin got off Salouen following the Arc that he suggested Hong Kong was the direction we should be heading towards,” Kirk said.