Leading jockey Joao Moreira is convinced enigmatic speedster Big Party is not out of his depth in Group-level company as he looks to build on his promising career.
The four-year-old has been a money muncher for favourite backers in his eight-start career, going under three times as an odds-on favourite, but has left no doubt that his best could one day see him compete at the top level.
With a history of leg issues, there were concerns the Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained galloper may never reach his true potential, but Moreira believes he may finally be ready to take the next step when he lines up in the Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1,000m) at Sha Tin.
“He felt great last time, there were no problems at all and I am very sure that Frankie has him going well at the moment,” he said.
Big Party was a smart winner in Class Two grade last week at Happy Valley and will have the shortest backup of his career on Sunday.
With Moreira riding for the first time last start, the Brazilian said he had suggested the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy to Lor post-race as a possible option.
“I am pleased that Frankie has taken this chance to put him in this Group race,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to be one of the strongest ever in Hong Kong so I am quite convinced that he is going in with a big winning chance.
“I was just saying to Frankie after the race that this one should be one to consider because I was doing some research and I couldn’t see many horses going to the race.
“I got on the line to Frankie and he made a decision. Sometimes we indicate to the trainers that we don’t have a ride in certain races and the horse would be a good chance there.
“I think Frankie looked at it and thought the same thing, that he would be in with his chance.”
Carrying the bottom weight of 118 pounds, Moriera will get weight relief off the likes of Regency Legend, Thanks Forever and Premiere.
“It is a handicap race and he is carrying the lightest weight, it is quite significant so I am very happy to be on him going into the race,” Moreira said.
Racing over the straight 1,000m trip for the first time since his debut, Lor said he was happy to drop Big Party down in distance for the event.
“If he gets cover, the 1,000m should not be a problem for him. He needs to get some cover behind some horses, that’s better for him,” he said.
“First-up last season, over 1,000m, he had no cover and finished fifth and we saw it again first start this season [over 1,200m], he jumped fast and had no cover all the way – it was only the last 50 metres he started to slow down.
“Last time, I asked Joao to try to get some cover and he was able to do it.”
With just seven runners in the race, it marks the second time in a row the race has failed to attract at least eight runners. It features two former winners in Jolly Banner and Premiere.