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Delightful Laos returns to Happy hunting ground after gutsy Derby run and maiden Group test

He ran a nice fifth in the Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) as a rank outsider before a one-paced ninth in the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2,400m) and now Delightful Laos returns to the course and distance where he looks most at home.

The Tony Cruz-trained four-year-old has his ninth start at the extended Happy Valley mile in Wednesday night’s Class Two Fort Handicap (1,650m) and is looking to add to an already impressive record.

All three of the galloper’s Hong Kong wins have come at the course and distance and Delightful Laos has been a handy money spinner for his followers, saluting at $60 on debut before also delivering at $15 and $6.50.

Alexis Badel takes the reins for the first time at the midweek meeting and the French jockey is confident he’s climbing aboard at the right time.

“He seems to be very good at this track and distance, I was offered the ride late but I think it’s a good pickup,” he said.

“After his last win at Happy Valley they tried to step-up further in distance and to a higher level and maybe now he’s coming back to his best trip. Maybe he can handle further at Happy Valley but he seems to be at his best at the 1,650m.

“After winning the Class Two they tried to follow the programme but he seems to be better at Happy Valley.”

That Class Two was in January and while on that occasion Delightful Laos carried only 120 pounds when saluting in his first attempt in the grade, a six-point penalty for that win and another seven for his Derby effort mean the gelding will lump top weight of 133 pounds this time around.

Badel has gate six at his disposal in a race that will see him tackle in-form pair Savaquin and Green Luck, as well as another Northern Hemisphere four-year-old stepping back in trip in Tsar.

Badel also partners the Richard Gibson-trained Loving A Boom on Wednesday night and hopes some rare luck at the barrier draw can prove key for the consistent speedster.

The six-year-old hasn’t finished outside the top four in his past five runs despite drawing gate 12 for three of those races and Badel will be looking to make the most of the inside alley for the Class Three Marble Handicap (1,200m).

“He’s a very good horse, he tries very hard and I think from that gate it could make a huge difference and he might be lucky enough to win a race. He deserves it,” the jockey said.

“He can finish as well so it’s better not to dig him because he’s very fast. I’ll probably make good use of the gate without pushing too much.”

Of his eight rides at the city circuit, Badel highlighted Sea Elite in the Class Four Tong Shui Handicap (1,200m) as another he’s looking forward to partnering after the Douglas Whyte-trained four-year-old drew gate four.

“Delightful Laos and Loving A Boom are my main chances but I see some potential in Sea Elite. He should have a chance from that draw, he should run OK,” Badel said.

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