Danny Shum Chap-shing’s hot start to the season has one of his main rivals staring down the barrel of second place at Sha Tin on Saturday.
The local trainer has started the 2019-20 season as well as ever and takes a seven-strong team to the races in an attempt to kick clear atop the trainers’ championship, albeit early in the piece.
Shum will saddle up last year’s beaten Hong Kong Derby hopeful Harmony Victory in the Class Two Pok Oi Centenary Cup Handicap (1,600m) as he looks to pick up where he left off at the back-end of last season.
The Brazilian import finished the season with a victory on closing day in Class One while carrying just 113 pounds, but will be forced to lug the top weight of 133 pounds on Saturday.
While last year’s top local trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen will saddle up King Opie in the race, he believes Harmony Victory is the horse to beat.
Lor’s five-year-old is looking to bounce back from a disappointing opening day performance a fortnight ago where he failed to make any ground over 1,400m.
“After a run he should be much better. It was little bit short for him, 1,600m should be better,” Lor said. “I think he has improved a little bit, but Danny’s horse is very strong.”
Harmony Victory is a two-time Group One winner in Brazil and performed well during last season’s four-year-old series, but Shum is hoping he can take the next step.
“He’s doing very well but my only worry is the weight he is carrying, 133 pounds, because he is not a big horse,” he said.
“Brazilian racing is hard to compare to Hong Kong but of the Brazilian horses, he is the best at the moment.
“Hopefully he can go to Class One but maybe not Group level.”
Shum is also hoping to bounce back with Winning Method in the Class Three Nam Sang Wai Handicap (1,000m) after being toppled as an odds-on favourite first-up.
The three-year-old boasts form behind potential star Aethero and went on to win two Griffin races last season by a combined eight lengths.
However, he was quickly found out when stepping into open company for the first time this season, running a disappointing eighth behind the likes of Multimillion and Super Junior.
While Shum expects Winning Method to have an easier time of things come Saturday, he is wary of the difficulties many young horses face when making the step-up from Griffin class.
“It’s hard to tell because he was castrated. Some horses take a while to acclimatise [to open class] but he can win in Class Three, it won’t be a problem. I think he needs a longer distance,” he said.
Jockey Joao Moreira has stayed on the speedy three-year-old and will have the advantage of jumping from barrier 13, which is typically favoured in straight-track racing at Sha Tin.