There has been a lot of hype about Big Party early in his career and trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen is hoping a switch to Happy Valley can help bring the best out of him.
The four-year-old has three wins from seven starts, but has started at $3.30 or shorter (he has been odds-on four times) in all of them, such is the weight of expectation on him.
He routinely scorches his rivals in barrier trials, but has been a little hit or miss when it comes to race day.
Big Party resumed over 1,200m at Sha Tin last month and went straight to the front, but that wasn’t the original plan.
“I didn’t want him to have to lead all the way – usually he’s better following other horses. But he led until the last 100m first-up and in the last 50m, he slowed down,” Lor said.
“That’s why I thought I’d try Happy Valley, because if you lead there, the straight is shorter. Sometimes you need to try new things.”
Joao Moreira replaces Zac Purton for Wednesday night’s Class Two Mercury Handicap (1,200m) and the Magic Man will be able to settle wherever he likes after drawing well in barrier five.
After navigating some back and leg issues early in his career, Lor is confident Big Party has overcome those ailments.
“Before he had some problems, but now everything is OK,” he said. “Hopefully, Happy Valley suits him.”
Big Party finds a very competitive race, with the winners of the past two 1,200m Class Two races at the city track – Speedy King and Tornado Twist – also taking part.
Another galloper having his first look at the unique Happy Valley track is Me Tsui Yu-sak’s dirt specialist Ugly Warrior.
The five-year-old began his season in Seoul but finished well down the track in the Korea Sprint, before running sixth on the Sha Tin turf over this trip last month.
Given his rating (98), Tsui has limited options for the gelding – who does his best work on the all-weather track – so he’s doing his best to find another viable option.
Ugly Warrior will wear blinkers for the first time on Wednesday night, with Dylan Mo Hin-tung taking the ride from barrier seven.
It is a similar story for the Tony Cruz-trained Multimillion, who does his best work down the Sha Tin straight.
He’s never been to Happy Valley either, and he’s had a little trouble handing a turn at Sha Tin previously, so the pressure will be on Karis Teetan to try and ensure he can produce his best in those new surroundings, particularly from gate eight.
Another one to keep an eye on is John Moore’s promising youngster Stronger, who will be ridden by Matthew Chadwick.
The three-year-old was impressive in his Hong Kong debut, running second to the in-form Duke Wai down the Sha Tin straight earlier this month when carrying the top weight, and now he gets 17 pounds of relief going from the top of Class Three to the bottom of Class Two.
Stronger won a Group Three in Queensland over this trip before making the move to Sha Tin, so it wouldn’t surprise to see him in the finish.