Two of the top four contenders in the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge are set to compete at Happy Valley on Wednesday night as the competition for the HK$650,000 first prize goes down to the wire.
With current leader Fa Fa being saved for the Classic Cup on Sunday and The Runner – who occupies joint-second spot – not in action, those connections will be hoping their main dangers for the big prize fail to fire.
A contest for horses competing in races rated Class Three and above at Happy Valley, the Million Challenge awards 15 points for a win, six points for second, four for finishing third and three for fourth.
Trained by Frankie Lor Fu-chuen, Fa Fa sits in pole position going into the final meeting with 60 points accrued after winning his first four starts of the season at Happy Valley, but there is every chance he can be overhauled by Special M.
The John Size-trained sprinter has 48 points after two wins and three runner-up finishes at the Valley from eight starts at the track this season and nothing less than a win in the Class Three King Kwong Handicap (1,000m) will do if he is to usurp Fa Fa and claim first prize.
Size often targets the Million Challenge, winning the competition in 2018-19 with Country Star and following up with Shining Ace in 2019-20 before Scores Of Fun was beaten by Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Grateful Heart last season.
The trainer will be hopeful that Special M can help him regain the Million Challenge title not least because of the absence of his nemesis Stoltz, who has beaten Special M into second in his last two starts and has made the jump into Class Two company.
But while Special M no longer has to contend with his arch rival, the quest for first place and the huge pot that goes along with it comes up against a massive roadblock in the shape of Lightning Storm.
The four-year-old has been raised 10 pounds for an impressive three-length win over the course and distance last time and he has marked himself as a sprinter on the rise with two wins from his first three runs.
He is likely to set a fast pace from the front and Special M will have to be at his best to pass him in the straight.
The other runner in with a chance of claiming the Million Challenge crown is the amazing Cheerful Days, who will share first prize with Fa Fa if he can salute in the Class Two Shan Kwong Handicap (1,650m).
Trained by Francis Lui Kin-wai, Cheerful Days sits on 45 points heading into the meeting after three Valley wins this season have contributed to an amazing rise through the ranks.
The five-year-old started the season rated 61 and at the foot of Class Three company but now runs off a mark of 95 and is on the verge of Group races after five wins this campaign.
If he is to draw level with Fa Fa and share the first prize, he will need to beat the Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Joy, who has won two of his three starts this season.
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