Is it possible to have good-looking produce? One Hong Kong racehorse owner seems to think so.
In the latest edition of “strange names in Hong Kong racing” comes Handsome Veggie, who makes his debut in Monday’s Class Four Badminton Handicap (1,200m) at Sha Tin.
The jurisdiction has a reputation for unique monikers – often including the themes of luck, money, dragons and stars – and some of that is because things can get lost in translation between their Chinese names and the English versions.
However, that is not really the case here as Handsome Veggie’s Chinese name is Happy Vegetable. Same, same but different.
It sparks flashbacks to Everyday Lettuce, who failed to earn a cheque in 11 starts (one for Caspar Fownes and 10 for Gary Ng Ting-keung) before retiring in late 2016.
Funnily enough, Handsome Veggie had a very sensible racing-themed name before coming to Hong Kong, the son of Dalghar known as Take The Reins when winning a trial in Australia for the Lindsay Park team of Tom Dabernig and Ben Hayes in March. Obviously that didn’t strike a chord with new owner Calvin Tin Yeun-keung.
The positive for Tin is that Handsome Veggie has flashed enough ability in his five trials to suggest he’ll win a race at some point, but Monday’s contest might be a bridge too far.
The David Hayes-trained grey gelding has drawn the outside alley for his first assignment – never an easy task – so jockey Antoine Hamelin will have to work some magic.
The horse to beat looks to be En Pointe from the in-form Frankie Lor Fu-chuen yard, who did well to finish third on debut after being trapped three-wide without cover throughout.
The son of Hallowed Crown has drawn well in barrier five this time around and should get a lovely run in transit – he looks the one to beat.
En Pointe’s biggest danger looks to be Country Boy, who is looking to continue the hot streaks of John Size and Joao Moreira.
The 11-time champion trainer has 12 wins so far in December – the stable is low-flying – while the Magic Man has 15 for the month and is just one behind the injured Zac Purton in the race for the premiership.
After being around the mark in four previous runs this campaign, Country Boy broke through to secure his maiden win in solid fashion earlier this month and looks capable of going on with it.
The wild card comes in the form of Untold Riches, who sparkled at the trials last season for Michael Chang Chun-wai but had issues every time he went to the races.
He suffered a bone chip in his knee on debut, a left humerus injury and shin soreness in his second run before being lame in both hind legs and suffering a bleed from his left nostril at his third start.
Untold Riches is now under the care of Jimmy Ting Koon-ho and has impressed again at the trials so the ability isn’t in doubt, it’s just being able to perform under race pressure.
Rounding out the chances, it only seems appropriate to mention another runner with an edible name in Douglas Whyte’s Pretty Queen Prawn, who showed a lot of improvement at his (yes his) third start and should get a nice run from barrier three under Jerry Chau Chun-lok.