Paul O’Sullivan has opted to go back to where it all began for smart five-year-old Band Of Brothers, with the gelding stepping out at Happy Valley for the first time since his debut in Thursday night’s Class Two Chai Wan Kok Handicap (1,650m).
That debut effort in February saw Band Of Brothers finish fifth over 1,200m in Class Four and provided a launch pad for a fruitful run at Sha Tin, with the horse going on to win four of his first five starts at the track.
That purple patch of form saw Band Of Brothers rating rise from 52 to 80 and O’Sullivan opted to try his luck in Class Two last month, however his first effort in the grade ended with a sixth-place finish and prompted the trainer to revert back to Class Three.
A gutsy second from the widest alley last start bumped Band Of Brothers rating to 82 and the son of Sakhee’s Secret finds himself back in Class Two, with Karis Teetan climbing aboard for the first time from gate four.
Alexis Badel, who has been aboard Band Of Brothers for his past two starts, partners the Richard Gibson-trained Harmony Hero.
Band Of Brothers will find himself up against some solid opposition, with a pair of four-year-old series hopefuls with intertwining overseas formlines looking set for big performances.
Caspar Fownes-trained The Hulk took out the Group Three Bonecrusher Stakes (1,400m) in New Zealand in his last start before coming to Hong Kong, with the Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained Super Oasis second in the race when named Surely Sacred.
Super Oasis went on to race another six times before moving to Sha Tin – finishing third in the Group One Australian Derby (2,400m) – and was fifth on his Hong Kong debut earlier this month.
The Hulk finished third, 11th and 11th in three Sha Tin runs before a shift to the Valley saw the gelding produce his best effort yet, a close second to Glorious Dragon last start on December 4.
Another youngster with classic series aspirations is three-year-old debutant Private Secretary, who finished fourth at Group Two level at Ascot before being purchased by the powerful Siu family.
Among his five runners on Thursday night, O’Sullivan also takes last-start winner Mehboob back to the races for the Class Four Ting Kau Handicap (1,000m).
Despite the four-year-old notching his maiden victory over six furlongs, O’Sullivan has stepped the horse back in trip – something he indicated after Mehboob’s success on November 27: “I think what really suits him is the 1,000m, where they jump and hum it a bit.”
O’Sullivan believes Mehboob will do his best work as a swooper in the long run but he won from the front of the field last time out and could well find himself going forward again on Thursday from barrier one.
Matthew Chadwick again takes the reins after partnering the horse in all seven of his starts and the pair encounter a number of in-form opponents, with Island Winner, The Abraxas and G Unit all turning in impressive performances in recent weeks.