Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Not Usual Talent will make the trek to Happy Valley on Wednesday night as connections look to break a recent pattern of honourable second placings.
The four-year-old has been one of Yung’s best performed gallopers this season but has walked away with just one win, running second three times in his past five starts at Sha Tin.
Arriving from New Zealand with a rating of 72 this season, Not Usual Talent has raced over varying distances from 1,200m to 2,000m and performed admirably but the “tricky” city track is set to throw a different set of circumstances at him when he lines up in the Class Two Wong Nai Chung Gap Handicap (1,800m).
Having ridden the horse in most of his seven starts to date, jockey Keith Yeung Ming-lun understands what suits him best and while he believes Not Usual Talent will be a horse suited to Sha Tin in time, Happy Valley could provide a short-term fix.
“The long straight at Sha Tin would suit him better because it gives you more time to run in but he is running out of chances there because when we put him in there, he is always running into a strong opponent,” he said.
“Instead of that, we are trying to take him to Happy Valley because he actually has some gate speed, too.
Keith Yeung is back with a bang: back trouble had kept him out for the last month but a strong drive sees Benno Yung's Not Usual Talent home in a driving finish to the Sha Tin nightcap. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/dHJhO6VDnR— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 31, 2019
“It is better to save him – the more you save him, the more he gives you in the straight.”
Winners have been few and far between for Yeung during an injury-interrupted season, but he believes Not Usual Talent is his best opportunity to kick-start a strong back-end of the season.
“He is very honest and he has ability, which helps,” he said.
“He has really big strides, if you ask him he can show early speed but then he loses the last kick that he has in the straight [and] becomes a bit one paced.
“If we can come out and not use him too much that will help. He can be in the finish.”
After drawing barrier seven, Yeung said a moment of indecision could leave him stuck wide.
“It’s tricky at Happy Valley from a middle barrier. Sometimes you try to run midfield and get caught three wide but then you don’t want to just go right back either,” he said. “Either way, I can’t use him too much and go forward either.”
With a number of top horses and consistent Happy Valley performers put away for the rest of the season, Yeung believes the time is now for Not Usual Talent, even though he is stepping up in grade.
“What he has been doing in Class Three, he has been doing it with the big weight,” he said. “Now he has just 113 [pounds], so that will help him.
“The horse is really fit, this run is his fittest of the season, I am really happy with his form.
“He is a very nice horse to ride, easy to handle as well, so Happy Valley won’t bother him too much. It is just a matter of how to ride him in the race.”
Yeung will also ride Jimmy Ting Koon-ho’s Ballistic King, who has been a consistent performer since arriving in Hong Kong, along with Right Honourable, This One’s For You, Compassion Star and Love Chunghwa.