Position in running is important in any race, but on Sha Tin’s all-weather track being in the front half of the field has been essential this term and that gives Deal Maker a strong chance of completing a hat-trick of wins on Sunday.
There have been nine races on the dirt track so far this season and none of the winners have been further back than sixth at any stage in transit, with four of them leading all the way.
One of those who controlled the race from the front was Deal Maker – he saluted on September 15 – and he looks a different horse since joining Jimmy Ting Koon-ho’s yard.
He steps out again in the Class Three JCI Hong Kong Senate Cup (1,650m) and looks a top hope despite his rating jumping 18 points in his past two starts.
They have both been since arriving at Ting’s stable after stints with Michael Freedman and Benno Yung Tin-pang.
On paper, the race doesn’t have a lot of pace in it – Tang Fleming looks to be the only other challenger for the front – so Deal Maker looks set to either lead or take a sit again.
If those two can get away with some relatively cheap sectionals, it makes Deal Maker the one to beat, even with the rise in class.
“He’s just gone to a whole new level since he’s joined Jimmy’s stable, obviously his win at the end of last season and then first-up,” jockey Chad Schofield said.
“To be honest, with the lead he had and as soft as it was, he probably was entitled to put a little gap on them [last start] but he did win well.
“Up in class now with less weight, hopefully he can continue on his winning ways.”
Schofield is adamant Deal Maker doesn’t have to lead and is prepared to ease out of a speed battle if required.
“He can take a sit. When he won his first race he took a sit, he didn’t lead that day. He’s quick out of the gates, he’s got good gate speed so he can get across and then I can just assess from there. He’s pretty versatile to ride,” he said.
“I think he’s come on nicely, I think he’s taken good benefit from his first-up run and he’s going to run very well.”
In the first dirt race on the card, the Class Five High West Handicap (1,650m), all eyes will be on the tactics employed by Joao Moreira aboard Master Bernini.
The six-year-old is having his first start for Tony Millard and the South African has a terrific record with stable transfers.
Master Bernini hasn’t been seen at the trials this season to give us any indication of what he may do, but that isn’t a concern in terms of fitness as the trainer did the same thing with Meridian Genius a fortnight ago and he still won.
Given he has drawn barrier 13 and the numbers this season saying you can’t win if you go back – the expectation is that the Brazilian will push forward in another race not blessed with a lot of pace.
Caspar Fownes’ Let’s Come Back looks the main danger after running on strongly first-up and jockey Zac Purton should be able to settle a bit closer from barrier two.