Francis Lui Kin-wai boasts the best strike rate among Hong Kong’s training fraternity this season, and Mr 13 Per Cent is set to saddle three last-start winners at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Fourth in this term’s trainers’ premiership on 21 victories, Lui has had fewer starters (160) than nine of his peers, including the three handlers whom he trails – 24-win Tony Cruz (188), 23-win Frankie Lor Fu-chuen (210) and 23-win John Size (214).
Lui’s five-strong Happy Valley squad features Theta Hedge, High Rise Soldier and Win Win Fighter, each of whom was triumphant on his latest outing.
Theta Hedge rises in grade after he shed his maiden tag in a Class Five race over the Happy Valley mile five weeks ago. Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, who has been aboard Theta Hedge on five occasions, including last time out, will ride the galloper from gate two in the Class Four Tai Long Tsui Handicap (1,650m).
Ho has advised Jockey Club officials he intends to put up one pound of overweight on Theta Hedge, so punters should expect the five-year-old gelding to carry 117 pounds when he tries to go back to back.
High Rise Soldier’s allocated impost of 119 pounds for the Class Three Long Ke Handicap (1,200m) is sufficiently high Ho should make the weight on another Lui-prepared galloper with whom he has enjoyed Happy Valley success in recent times.
Ho and High Rise Soldier survived the protest Sight Hero’s rider, Luke Currie, lodged in a Class Four sprint on November 30, Jockey Club stewards ruling the contact between the horses in the race’s final 50m insufficient to have affected the result because of the first-past-the-post galloper’s neck margin.
Lui has booked Silvestre de Sousa, who like Angus Chung Yik-lai and Jerry Chau Chun-lok returns from suspension on Wednesday night – Luke Ferraris is back from his medical condition unrelated to Covid-19 – to partner Win Win Fighter from the inside barrier in the Class Three Luk Wu Handicap (1,650m).
Mickael Barzalona had been meant to ride Win Win Fighter in the second leg of the International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley three weeks ago, but Derek Leung Ka-chun picked up the pieces after the French jockey tested positive for Covid-19.
Lui’s other Happy Valley entries are seven-start maiden Forever Glorious in the Class Five Wong Yi Chau Handicap (1,800m) and one-time winner Turbo Power in the Class Four Pak Tam Chung Handicap (1,200m), with Ho assigned to both horses.
While De Sousa, Chung, Chau and Ferraris return to action on Wednesday night, Vagner Borges and Lyle Hewitson begin their careless riding suspensions.
Both Borges and Hewitson are banned until following the New Year’s Day meeting at Sha Tin on Sunday.