Francis Lui Kin-wai, the reigning King of the Valley, will saddle two last-start winners at the city circuit on Wednesday night as the 28-season trainer tries to build on his best-ever beginning to a campaign.
Lui’s Sha Tin treble on Sunday – Always Fluke, Packing Treadmill and Yellowfin won three of the card’s final six races – improved his statistics to eight victories from 26 runners in this term’s opening five meetings.
In Lui’s previous 27 seasons at the head of a stable, his highest tally of triumphs at this stage of a season had been his seven successes from 27 starters across the 2019-20 programme’s initial five cards.
Golden Sixty contributed to Lui’s flying start four years ago. While none of the softly spoken handler’s five-strong squad for Wednesday night’s meeting at Happy Valley is likely to earn anywhere near as much money on the track as the three-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year, they could reward their connections with several more wins in the city’s lower grades.
Sweet Briar and Wonder Kit are the Lui-trained last-start victors heading to Happy Valley, with Win Win Fighter, Bayview Star and Baby Crystal accompanying them in the horse float from Sha Tin to the city circuit.
Lyle Hewitson, aboard Sweet Briar for both of his Sha Tin successes over 1,200m late last term, did not overexert the lightly raced Shamexpress gelding when the pair took part in a Happy Valley trial on September 16. However, Lui liked what he saw.
“He showed good form in his trial at Happy Valley,” Lui said. “Maybe 1,200m will be a bit short for him this season. I don’t know. But from his good draw in gate six, he still has a good chance of winning.”
The finale of Wednesday night’s nine-race meeting will be Sweet Briar’s first competitive outing at Happy Valley. Lui wants to find out if his back-to-back winner can reproduce his Sha Tin results at the venue where no one celebrated more wins last term than him.
“If he can handle Happy Valley, I’ll run him at Happy Valley,” Lui said. “If he can’t, then I’m stuck.”
Up in grade after rising from 50 to 62 in the ratings, Sweet Briar will contest the first section of the Class Three Cuckoo Handicap (1,200m) 35 minutes after Wonder Kit runs in the second section from the outside barrier under his regular rider, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu.
Ho will also steer Baby Crystal in the second section of the Class Four Honeyeater Handicap (1,200m) for Lui. The 64-year-old conditioner has booked Derek Leung Ka-chun and Matthew Poon Ming-fai to partner Win Win Fighter and Bayview Star, respectively.
Leung has won one of his two races on Win Win Fighter. Bayview Star has finished 11th twice and 12th once in his three hugely disappointing starts, the least bad of which occurred in tandem with Poon on April 9.
With Wednesday night’s Triple Trio pool featuring a rollover jackpot of more than HK$31 million, Jockey Club officials estimate a single HK$10 winning unit on the exotic could pay up to HK$48 million.
Meanwhile, Brenton Avdulla – whom Jockey Club stewards stood down midway through Sunday’s card at Sha Tin after he sustained knocks to his head, neck and shoulder aboard California Deeply – is fit to resume riding in trials and races from Tuesday.