David Hall and Jerry Chau Chun-lok have developed a fruitful relationship since the jockey began his Hong Kong career in May and the Australian trainer hopes the in-form apprentice is the man to spur Joyful Fortune back into winning form.
After a dominant victory on debut under Blake Shinn as the $1.80 favourite, Joyful Fortune was knocked off as a $1.30 pop under Zac Purton when first-up this season three weeks ago.
The talented four-year-old gets his third jockey in as many starts in the Class Three Cameron Handicap (1,000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday and Hall hopes Chau and his seven-pound claim can prove the perfect stopgap in Purton’s absence.
“Zac was suspended and the 1,000m is a pretty straightforward race, it’s not too complicated. The kid has got his confidence up, he’s in hot form and if you get seven pounds off, why not go with him,” Hall said.
Hall and Chau have only combined 11 times since May but when they do things happen, with the partnership netting four winners at a strike rate of 36 per cent, along with a further four placings.
All four of those winners have come this season and Hall is hopeful Joyful Fortune will add another to that tally on Sunday afternoon.
“He’s had plenty of experience down the straight and he’s got the claim so he’s got to go and put his hand up now,” the trainer said.
After going forward last time out, Joyful Fortune looked to have done enough only to be mowed down by the barnstorming Ping Hai Bravo in the final strides.
“He had a couple of setbacks and he went in off one trial and it was a pretty pressured race throughout,” Hall said of Joyful Fortune, who carries just 115 pounds this weekend.
“He fought them all off and then he got pipped on the line by a super-fit horse who has got some talent.
“Of course we were disappointed to get beaten but let’s see if he can redeem himself. He won’t have a fitness query over him after having a run so it’s all ahead of him to prove himself.
“As soon as anything gets beaten the bubble’s burst, but he’s still talented and I’m hoping he’s come right on for the run and he can bounce back.”
Joyful Fortune again meets Ping Hai Bravo but this time he is 11 pounds better off, while proven Class Three performers Dancing Fighter and Metro Warrior also enter the race in good order.
Another galloper who’s shown he can mix it down the Sha Tin straight is Valiant Dream, with Francis Lui Kin-wai’s five-year-old winning twice and placing four times at the course and distance.
The gelding has long battled leg issues and has had some fitness issues since his last-start 10th in October, but Lui expects his galloper to turn in a competitive performance.
“Joyful Fortune will be tough to beat but my horse, I won’t say he’s in top form, but he’s racing into form,” Lui said. “He struggled a little bit with injury but now he seems OK and 1,000m is his best distance.”