It’s been a big season for The Rock with three wins from 10 starts catapulting the five-year-old to the top of Class Two but the Caspar Fownes-trained galloper has one more box to tick before having a well-earned rest – breaking his Happy Valley duck.
The 97-rated gelding will race at the city circuit for the fifth time this term in Wednesday night’s Class Two Bowen Handicap (1,650m) but is still in search of his first victory at the iconic track after a host of near-misses over the extended Valley mile.
After finishing eighth in his Valley debut in November, The Rock has finished a three-quarter-length runner-up, a half-length second and a neck third in three subsequent attempts, the latter of which was at Class One level in February.
The Rock enters the race on the back of a two-length victory at Sha Tin earlier this month, with Chad Schofield producing a superb front-running ride to salute from the outside barrier.
The jockey again takes the ride at the midweek meeting but will have plenty of competition for the lead on this occasion, with the likes of Magnificent and Solar Wai Wai likely to push forward from the outside two gates in the nine-horse contest.
Schofield will no doubt still look to be positive from gate three, with each of The Rock’s victories coming from the front or close to it.
It was Solar Wai Wai who saluted in that 1,650m Class One in February and The Rock will get the chance to turn the tables on Wednesday night, although he meets Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s charge three pounds worse off at the weights.
The Rock will have to lump 130 pounds in a race that also features Glorious Artist – who will go around with the top weight of 133 pounds – and a trio of gallopers who have also saluted at the course and distance this season in Green Luck, Savaquin and Holy Heart.
Schofield also partners Island Shine, Beauty Cheers and A La King at the third-last Valley meeting of the season, with A La King poised to be set a big task from gate 12 in the Class Three Caine Handicap (1,200m).
The Jimmy Ting Koon-ho-trained three-year-old has proven progressive in his first four runs and looks set to be an exciting prospect next season regardless of what happens on Wednesday night.
After saluting over the Valley 1,200m on debut, A La King misfired from gate 10 at the course and distance before a forgettable 11th over seven furlongs at Sha Tin.
Ridden quietly by Vincent Ho Chak-yiu back at the Valley last start, the son of Denman finished strongly down the outside to salute under top weight.
A La King’s horror draw for his fifth start will be offset to an extent by a 120-pound impost but the numbers are heavily against him, with only four of 92 runners winning from the outside alley on the C course over the Valley 1,200m across the past three seasons.