Michael Chang Chun-wai heads to Happy Valley on Wednesday night knowing he has thrown everything into one last grab for glory with his highest-rated galloper Saul’s Special.
The six-year-old enters the Class Two Cheung Hong Handicap (1,000m) with a rating of 100, meaning any further rise puts him in the no man’s land of relying on Group contests, Class Ones or – depending on the rise – extended Class Twos.
“His full preparation has been for this race, I gave him two barrier trials and there is no excuse in his preparation. I targeted this race, I think it is his best chance,” Chang said of Saul’s Special, whose last three wins have come at this course and distance.
Chang admits Saul’s Special, who will be ridden by Zac Purton, does not have the ability to be his first Group runner since Rich Tapestry in 2016 but hopes he has enough improvement in him to win for a fifth time before reaching his mark.
“He’s nothing special, now he’s a six-year-old with a rating up to 100. He won twice in Class Two last season so this time he carries the top weight of 133,” Chang said.
“Last season he won by two lengths and was very impressive, I think he still has a little bit of improvement but his rating went up eight points. It’s a good test.”
That two-length win came in Saul’s Special’s last start of 2018-19, with the son of Charge Forward meeting a host of the horses he left in his wake that night again on Wednesday.
Short-track specialist Speedy King is one of those and tackles Saul’s Special eight pounds better off at the weights, while Moment Of Power, Super Turbo and Baltic Whisper all front up again.
The John Moore-trained Sunny Boy takes on the Valley 1,000m for the first time after a solid third over 1,200m on the all-weather track on September 8 – a race that also featured Speedy King, who finished a distant sixth.
Chad Schofield was aboard for Sunny Boy’s first-up run and is excited about what the five-year-old can achieve from barrier one at the city track.
“We know he handles the turf, he’s proven that,” Schofield said. “I think back to the 1,000m is a plus. He gets 1,200m but he’s very fast and with 117 pounds and a good draw, the race looks good for him.
“He trialled well leading into that dirt race and he handles the dirt, but I think coming back to the turf, it looks a suitable race.”
Sunny Boy likes to race handy and Schofield expects to have plenty of options from the inside barrier.
“He jumps really fast and in the first 100m he’s going to hold that fence. With a run under the belt and the light weight he should go close,” he said.
Schofield has five rides on Wednesday night as he looks to continue his solid start to the season, which has netted a winner at each of the past three meetings.
“I’m just going along nicely, four meetings down and three winners. I’ve just got to keep the consistency there,” he said.