Lucky Sweynesse must make history and break what has become something of a hoodoo if Manfred Man Ka-leung’s stable star is to win the Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
No Group debutant has won any of the 17 previous runnings of the handicap that has risen steadily in status from no black type in 2005, to Hong Kong Group Three in 2006, to Hong Kong Group Two in 2011, to international Group Two in 2016.
And no HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup winner has been first past the post in a subsequent contest since Seasons Bloom won three races following his victory in the 2017 edition of the Class One sprint, the last of which was the Premier Bowl of 2019.
Remarkably, only two of the past 10 Chief Executive’s Cup winners ended their respective careers having experienced at least one more triumph, with the other being 2016 victor Lucky Star, who defied odds of $89 to steal the slow-tempo Group Three Sha Tin Vase of 2017.
Good horse, Lucky Sweynesse! 🤯— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) September 11, 2022
Hong Kong's Champion Griffin (2021/22) bolts in under @SilvDSousa to capture the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup for trainer Manfred Man. 🔥🔥#SeasonOpener | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/tAshB27NZb
A Class Four competitor eight months ago, Lucky Sweynesse has won six of his eight starts to fly through the grades, his most impressive performance being his Chief Executive’s Cup annihilation of nine horses, whose number included Premier Bowl entrants Duke Wai, Lucky Patch and Sky Field.
Silvestre de Sousa incurred the wrath of the Jockey Club stewards when becoming the fourth rider to win aboard Lucky Sweynesse, receiving a three-meeting suspension for his carelessness in the Chief Executive’s Cup that impacted half a dozen runners.
De Sousa deferred another ban – the one he earned for his careless riding of Mr Ascendency five weeks ago – so he would be able to stick with Man’s most promising galloper in a long time, but the veteran trainer has elected to go back to Zac Purton, who is three from four aboard the four-year-old.
If Man, whose highlights as a handler include the 2012 and 2013 Centenary Sprint Cup (1,000m) wins of Eagle Regiment when that race was a Hong Kong Group One – not an international Group One – concerns himself with trends, he will hope Lucky Sweynesse does not start the Premier Bowl as its favourite because its market leaders have an awful record.
Just three Premier Bowl favourites – Sterling City (2013), Aerovelocity (2014) and Lucky Bubbles (2016) – have justified their positions as the shortest-priced starters, with favourite backers losing more than 40 per cent to level stakes.
Lucky Sweynesse will jump from gate 11 in the 12-horse Premier Bowl field, and the race will be the eighth event on Sha Tin’s 10-race card. Purton rode Lucky Sweynesse to victory from barrier 11 when they combined on the final day of last season.
With Alexis Badel – to the surprise of no one – choosing Wellington over Cordyceps Six, Richard Gibson has turned to Lyle Hewitson to partner last term’s Sha Tin Vase winner for the first time.
In all, jockey changes apply to 10 of the dozen Premier Bowl entrants, with only Badel (Wellington) and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu (Stronger) retaining their last-start gigs aboard these talented sprinters.
Matthew Chadwick will steer the bottom weight, Fantastic Treasure, at 115 pounds, which is four pounds more than the David Hayes-prepared galloper’s true handicap impost.