If last week’s Triple Trio showed punters anything, it’s that if you pit a collection of evenly matched gallopers against each other, just about anything can happen.
After $2.30 favourite Seasons Bliss failed to even run a place in the opening leg, $58 rank outsider Enzemble landed the knockout blow as the roughest runner in the final leg to send punters home with their tails between their legs.
The positive – a HK$61 million jackpot and potential $90 million dividend for this Sunday’s Sha Tin meeting, the highest estimated dividend since the 2012-13 season. The negative – a minefield of even less talented gallopers and more open races to negotiate.
To kick off proceedings punters are treated with the Class Five Yan Tin Handicap (1,650m) on the all-weather track – the first on the oft-biased surface for the afternoon – which features three of Hong Kong’s 10 worst horses in the 12-rated Keep Winning, Wicker (16) and Proud Sky (17).
It’s at the top of the handicap where the winning chances look to be, however, with Dragon Commander bringing the best form into the race with a win and two seconds from his past three runs.
After back-to-back runner-up finishes over the dirt 1,800m, the Me Tsui Yu-sak-trained six-year-old returns to the course and distance of a dead-heat win in February.
He raced handier than usual last start and will jump from gate three on Sunday, a welcome relief after double-figure draws for his last five runs and an alley that should see him within striking distance in the run under Derek Leung Ka-chun.
Chris So Wai-yin’s Regency Gem looks another who can be included with some confidence after a last-start victory under this season’s most prolific dirt jockey Karis Teetan, who retains the ride and has gate two at his disposal.
Also requiring consideration is 26-start maiden Shinealot, who has started $5.90 or shorter in his three starts on the dirt and has Zac Purton jumping back aboard from gate eight, while Aerosonic and Sure Win Win also shape as competitive.
Race five could (maybe?) be a touch more straightforward, with leading riders Joao Moreira (Zone D), Purton (Packing Award) and Teetan (Galaxy Emperor) partnering in-form horses coming off last-start placings.
If there’s a banker among them it may be Zone D, who remains on a rating of 59 after four consecutive course-and-distance thirds on the mark and has drawn nicely in gate three for the Class Four On Yam Handicap (1,400m) on the turf.
We head back to the dirt for the final leg and the likes of the Richard Gibson-trained Blotting Paper and Deal Maker look set to be pace influences in the Class Four Ping Tin Handicap (1,650m).
Deal Maker is an interesting runner even if he does come into the race off a last-start performance worse even than Enzemble’s – he’s back within two points of his last win, which came at the course and distance, and he has his first start for So, who has had some luck with stable changes this season.
Others that must be considered are in-form dirt specialist Double Take, Michael Chang Chun-wai’s Smart Folks, the improving Piano Solo and the born-again Fairy Floss.