Two last-start winners line up in Wednesday night’s Class Two Wong Nai Chung Handicap (1,000m) at Happy Valley and no one knows them better than Douglas Whyte, who trains Carroll Street and prepared Astrologer for the first 11 of his 14 Hong Kong runs.
Carroll Street won a Class Two sprint at Sha Tin last month off a 259-day break, travelling beautifully into the race on the straight track under Karis Teetan before idling after he hit the front inside the final 300m. His short-head margin led Jockey Club handicappers to raise his rating by only five pounds, and he may still be well treated off his new mark.
The obvious concern for prospective Carroll Street punters is his poor Happy Valley form, which reads two fifths and one 10th from three starts, although only one of his fifths relates to a 1,000m contest.
With Whyte wanting Carroll Street’s second outing on his comeback from injury to be in a 1,000m event, the South African trainer had to set his five-year-old galloper for Wednesday night’s Happy Valley sprint because it is the only such race scheduled until May.
“There are very limited races on the programme, and he’s the kind of horse you run according to where the race is available,” said Whyte, who thinks Carroll Street can reproduce the quality of his first-up performance as he seeks his sixth success.
“He can maintain it. It’s a quick back up after a long break, and they are generally OK like that. He’s done nothing much in between races. He’s freshened up. He was a very fit horse going into his first run, so I don’t think that would have set him back.
“He’s run well at the Valley. He’s done nothing wrong there, he’s just been a bit unlucky. He’s a bit older now and a bit wiser. Let’s hope he cops it.”
If Carroll Street wants to string together two wins for a second time – he did it in his brief two-run campaign during the spring of 2021 – one of the 11 speedsters he will have to beat is his former stablemate, four-year-old galloper Astrologer.
The Happy Companions Syndicate transferred Astrologer from Whyte to Pierre Ng Pang-chi following his first three runs this season – each of them unplaced – and the Happy Valley specialist scored for his new yard in a Class One contest over 1,200m four weeks ago on his third appearance for his new handler.
Ng, whose stable houses many talented sprinters in addition to Astrologer, is delighted with his recent acquisition, on whom Alexis Badel keeps the ride.
“He’s brilliant,” Ng said of Astrologer. “The way he won last start, over 1,200m, I was very surprised with the way he finished off. This time, running over 1,000m, I don’t think it’ll be a problem for him.”
The full field for the Wong Nai Chung Handicap, which is the last of Wednesday night’s nine races at Happy Valley, also includes course-and-distance specialist Whizz Kid, last-start runner-up Grateful Heart and Power Koepp, whom Manfred Man Ka-leung saddles for the first time after the galloper joined him from John Size’s yard.
Derek Leung Ka-chun trialled Power Koepp for Man at Sha Tin on February 24. Man has elected to remove Power Koepp’s ear plugs, gear without which he has raced only once in Hong Kong.