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Hongkong Great returns to happy hunting ground, Nervous Witness trials

Stepping up to his optimal distance on his preferred surface, Hongkong Great returns to his happy hunting ground this Wednesday (27 October) evening when he lines up in the Class 2 Hebe Hill Handicap (1650m, dirt) at Sha Tin’s eight-race all-dirt fixture.

Seeking a fourth success over 1650m on the dirt, the former Chilean galloper is readying for his second run this campaign after being run off his feet over 1200m last time out.

Tomorrow night, he reunites with championship-leading rider Zac Purton, who has been in sensational form through October with 13 wins from five race meetings.

"Hopefully he can bounce back to the form that he was in through the latter half of last season, he had a nice pipe-opener over 1200 metres first-up, so he's back to a course and distance that he enjoys and we'll see if he's still got it," Purton said.

A three-time G1 winner in South America, the 102-rater oozes quality - some of which he will look to impose on rivals, just like he did when smashing Gun Pit's 1650m dirt course record in May this year, clocking 1m 36.15s for the five and a half-length demolition job.

Although, this morning (Tuesday, 26 October) at Sha Tin's barrier trials, Purton laced any optimism with prudent caution after the charge's barrier antics earlier this week.

"The 1200 metres is not his right distance and he probably wasn't in a comfortable rhythm or zone either, I'm just quite not sure if he's still in the same form that he was at the back-end of last season.

"I jumped him out on Monday (25 October) and it took us a long time to get him into the gates, Danny's (Shum) assistant trainer said it took nine minutes to get him in, so he used all of his energy beforehand and he was exhausted by the time he got in there.

"I thought this gallop was ok but not quite as good as his gallop previously but whether that's because he emptied himself out before we finally got to do some work or not, well, we'll find out tomorrow," Purton outlined.

The Lookin At Lucky gelding has three wins from 12 starts for trainer Danny Shum in Hong Kong. Before his arrival, the galloper won five times in Chile before transferring to the United States of America where he raced four times for no wins.

"The not getting in the gates - it's a stubborn thing, he's not nervous at all, he's just playing a game so once you get him in there he's fine and once the gates open he's good to ride, so we just have to get him in as quick as we can," Purton said.

The six-year-old is one of three Chilean-bred gallopers currently in training in Hong Kong along with Panfield and Winning Dragon; between them, the trio has won a combined nine G1s - eight of which have come in Chile, while Panfield is the sole top-level winner in Hong Kong.

Winning Dragon is a new arrival to the Tony Cruz stable and has trialled once in his new home, finishing midfield over 1200m on the dirt earlier this month, while Panfield recently claimed the G2 Oriental Watch 60th Anniversary Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m), first-up while on a LONGINES Hong Kong International Races trail.

"It's good to have him back so we'll see how he goes - the race is there for him and hopefully we can take advantage of that," Purton said of Hongkong Great.

Against Hongkong Great (133lb) tomorrow evening is Wishful Thinker (132lb), Kings Shield (131lb), Not Usual Talent (131lb), The Rock (127lb), Red Desert (126lb), Telecom Fighters (125lb) and Helene Wisdom Star (113lb).

Across this season and last, both Snitzel and Hard Spun share top-billing for sires on the dirt course in Hong Kong with five winners apiece.

Nervous Witness trials

Nervous Witness has made an incredible beginning to his bourgeoning career and he took another step forward this morning (Tuesday, 26 October) with a stylish first-past-the-post effort on the dirt in a trial at Sha Tin.

Stepping out under familiar ally Zac Purton, the Star Witness gelding broke cleanly to clock 1m 01.59s from the front - two and three quarter lengths ahead of his nearest rival.

"I was happy with that, he was a little bit fresh so he's bouncing a little bit and he moved around a touch in the gate, he was a little bit awkward when he took his first step because he was a little bit off balance.

"But once he picked himself up he did everything right and his trial was good - I'm looking forward to riding him again on the seventh (of November) and continuing the path that we're on," Purton said.

Undefeated across two starts in Hong Kong, the four-year-old Australian-bred galloper has risen an eye-boggling 28 points up the handicap combined for both of those efforts.

Trained by David Hayes, the talented speedster races in the famous green and black of Arthur Antonio da Silva, owner of the imperious Silent Witness.

Wednesday's (27 October) eight-race all-dirt fixture kicks off at 7.15pm with the Class 5 Tsim Mei Fung Handicap (1200m, dirt).

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