IN-FORM Ricky Yiu looks to be the trainer to follow when racing resumes at Happy Valley in Hong Kong today.
Yiu is in the middle of a purple patch, with two winning trebles at the Valley and Sha Tin in the past week, rocketing him to the head of the trainer’s leaderboard with 20 winners.
He has trained an impressive eight winners from his last 26 runners, a remarkable strike rate considering his stable is predominantly filled with middle-of-the-road gallopers.
His record at Happy Valley is even more impressive with 10 wins and four places so far, even putting him ahead of ‘King of the Valley’ trainer Caspar Fownes.
Yiu saddles four runners at the inner-city track and all are going to be popular with the local punters. Winwin Thirtythree makes a quick reappearance to the track having suffered a desperate journey when runner- up at Sha Tin last Saturday.
He lines up in the five-furlong Hawick Handicap (10.45am), but an outside draw and a drop down in distance tempers enthusiasm. Focus has solid each-way claims off bottom-weight in the following Jedburgh Handicap (11.15am). He’s had no luck in recent runs but he’s mapped to get an ideal journey from an inside drawn.
Probable favourite Top Score is an obvious threat, as are the improving pair of Supreme Plus and Simply Fluke in what looks a tough and competitive handicap.
Yiu’s best chance of success could be KING’S TROOPER, who will be seeking to compensate supporters for an expensive last-start defeat, when he lines-up in the six-furlong Handicap (12.45pm).
This Australian bred four-year-old, an impressive course and distance winner in September, was all the rage to successfully follow-up last month but raced too freely from the off and ran out of petrol down the home straight.
A recent trial where he settled in midfield with cover before finishing strongly suggests he will be ridden in similar style this afternoon, and with an inside draw a bonus can get back to winning form.
Hat-trick seeking Gentle Breeze represents the Yiu stable in the main event of the day, The St Andrew’s Challenge Quaich Handicap (1.15pm).
Gentle Breeze was one of the easiest winners in a long while at the Valley this season when putting clear daylight between himself and his rivals over the course and distance three weeks ago.
The handicapper clearly rated that performance highly, giving the five-year-old a hefty 12lb hike in the weights.
Another negative is that he finds himself starting from a double-figure draw, which makes his life much tougher, especially with plenty of early-speed rivals to contend with.
These factors give trainer Caspar Fownes the chance to bounce back into the limelight when he saddles well-drawn JUMBO PRIZE, who looks exceptionally well-handicapped on recent form.
This lightly-raced but progressive four-year-old ran a race full of promise on his first attempt over the minimum trip at Sha Tin earlier this month.
On that occasion, in a race containing half-a-dozen previous winners, Jumbo Prize raced on the slowest part of the track, but still stayed on strongly in the closing stages to finish fourth.
In a race likely to be fast and furious from the off, he is drawn for a rail-hugging journey and can then make his bid for glory down the home stretch.
King’s Trooper 12.45pm Happy Valley
Jumbo Prize 1.15pm Happy Valley