If exciting four-year-old Packing Treadmill is to continue his unbeaten run this season, he will be doing it under a different rider at Sha Tin on Saturday.
Zac Purton has been in the saddle for each of seven of Packing Treadmill’s starts, but with the champion jockey engaged elsewhere, Francis Lui Kin-wai has chosen to employ the services of one of Hong Kong’s newest arrivals, Hugh Bowman.
Lui has his sights set on the Classic Series with Packing Treadmill, but the son of Manhattan Rain’s programme is dependent on his run in the Class Two Poinsettia Handicap (1,600m), Saturday’s race in which he tackles a mile for the first time and encounters fellow progressive four-year-old gallopers Beautyverse and Keefy.
“He’s in good form,” Lui said. “On Monday, I worked him on the grass at Sha Tin, and he seemed OK. Hugh was also happy with him.
“I hope he can be my best four-year-old. It’s a lifetime for him, so I have to try a mile. The four-year-old series depends on how he runs this weekend. It’s a good field.”
Packing Treadmill’s running style gives plenty of hope his stamina reserves will last a mile because he is usually strong at the death. Furthermore, he is used to doing things the hard way, with his past four wins all coming from wide gates – nine, 10, 11 and 12 – which suggests he has a gutsy attitude to go alongside his undoubted talent.
Bowman has been Hong Kong’s unluckiest jockey in the past week or so, finishing second nine times across the latest three meetings following his opening-race success aboard Management Folks at Happy Valley on the Wednesday night before last. He will be itching to find a horse with the potential of taking him through the Classic Series, which gets under way with the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1,600m) on January 29.
Lui is enjoying a fine campaign, with Brave Star’s midweek victory at Happy Valley taking his tally this season to 20 wins, good enough for fourth position in the trainers’ premiership, four successes behind the leader, Tony Cruz. While Lui’s Sha Tin squad on Saturday is not high on quantity with just four runners, the quality is there.
Aside from Packing Treadmill, Lui will be hopeful of another big run from eye-catching grey Chancheng Prince, who returns to Sha Tin’s all-weather surface for the Class Three Spruce Handicap (1,650m) under his regular rider, Ruan Maia.
Disappointing on Sha Tin’s turf track last month, Chancheng Prince should feel more at home on the dirt after winning his penultimate start over Saturday’s course and distance in October with an exuberant, front-running performance.
While Lui is vastly experienced, he will be looking for good things from a galloper in the early stages of his Hong Kong career when recent Australian import Dinkum contests the Class Three Yan Chai Trophy (1,200m).
Dinkum is set to make only his third Hong Kong start, and he caught the eye when making good late ground at Happy Valley last month. A potential improver with Vincent Ho Chak-yiu regaining the reins, he could be one to watch in the market.
Lui’s other runner on Saturday’s 10-race card is Skyey Supreme, the mount of Victor Wong Chun in the Class Four Holly Handicap (1,650m). He placed second over 1,800m on Sha Tin’s all-weather surface in tandem with Angus Chung Yik-lai on December 4.