With race fitness on his side, Alexis Badel believes The Rock can overcome a big weight and take out the Class Two Woodpecker Handicap (1,600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Caspar Fownes’ five-year-old made a solid return when fourth on opening day and looks to be one of the leading contenders in a race that has been made easier by the withdrawal of Charity Fun.
Danny Shum Chap-shing’s talented four-year-old was scratched on Friday morning and is set for a long stint on the sidelines after suffering a left fore tendon injury.
Despite having to give at least eight pounds to the rest of his rivals – including 16 to likely favourite C P Brave – Badel is optimistic about The Rock’s prospects.
“He’s got a good chance, I thought his trial was very good before his first run and he proved it because he gave a good effort,” he said. “I think he’s going to run well even if he’s top weight [with 132 pounds].”
Fownes also thinks the step up in trip should work in The Rock’s favour.
“I thought the horse could end up in triple figures this season … and he backed it up with a nice fourth first-up over 1,400m,” Fownes said of his galloper, who won three races in 2020-21.
“Obviously now to the mile, he’s drawn eight. He’s gone up a bit in weight, that’s the only thing that might anchor him but he’s certainly in fine form.
“He’s versatile, so we’ll just see how the track is playing. We’re in the last race and we’ll work it out. If we have to use his speed and go forward, we’ll do that. If we want to ride him conservatively, we can do that as well.”
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The Rock headlines a strong book of nine mounts for Badel, with the John Size-trained Tempest Express also creating plenty of interest after saluting at two of his past three starts.
The five-year-old hasn’t been seen since March, when he felt the pinch at the end of a hectic debut season in Hong Kong and dropped out to finish 11th.
“I thought it was a very tough run because he was caught wide and he didn’t have the best trip. He probably had excuses on that occasion,” Badel said. “He has got a tricky draw so how he goes could depend on the pace, but this horse has been very consistent.”
The likeable Frenchman is still chasing his first Sha Tin winner of the term after pocketing two Happy Valley successes earlier this month but goes into Sunday’s card in a positive frame of mind.
“I think most of my rides look competitive and should run well,” Badel said. “[Namjong Sings has] been a great horse for me. He’s won in pretty good style for me so I hope he can produce his best, if he can he should have a chance.
“King Of The Court seems to be a nice progressive horse. He has done everything well in his trials, it’s a bit different on race day but if he can produce what he’s done at the trials he should run a good race.
“Entrusted is an interesting horse because he is going to win from this rating sooner or later.”