DOUGLAS Whyte’s NORDIC WELLSTAR looks the star bet, on an intriguing and highly competitive nine-race programme, at Happy Valley in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
This is a big week for the former 13-time champion jockey turned trainer, who will be looking to his ex-Australian four-year-old as a launch pad for success when the he lines-up in the Durham Handicap (1:45pm) over five furlongs.
Whyte saddles his first runner and leading contender Russian Emperor in Sunday’s £2.2 million BMW HK Derby at Sha Tin and with his stable in the middle of a relatively quiet spell, will be hoping for a change of fortune.
The son of Written Tycoon produced a highly encouraging performance in only his fourth start in Hong Kong, when from the outside draw, he dashed from the clouds, but just needing one more stride to beat smart performer Flying Genius over the course and distance last month.
This time with a positive draw in his favour and in-form jockey Alexis Badel in the saddle, he should be closer to the anticipated quick early pace.
With main rivals Loving A Boom and Sky Show allocated awkward draws, he is mapped to get an ideal journey and with his impressive finishing-kick should be hard to beat.
It may also be worth keeping an on his stable companion Talenti who will be attractive odds in the Hereford Handicap (2:15pm) over the extended mile.
This New Zealand bred galloper was an eye-catcher at Happy Valley recently and will surely improve further.
Connections of CHAMPION PRIDE, who has suffered a catalogue of health issues throughout his three seasons in Hong Kong, can finally be rewarded for their patience, when he contests the Lancashire Handicap (11:45am).
This former John Gosden galloper, known as Eaton Square back in the UK, has run ten times in Hong Kong, most of which he has never been sighted.
Trainer David Ferraris has obviously had to treat him with ‘kid gloves’ throughout his career, and it’s only since the end of last year that this son of Invincible Spirit has started to show he has an engine under the bonnet.
A close-up seventh over course and distance behind progressive Noble Birth in January and an encouraging fourth to Golden Link at Sha Tin soon after, suggests he is now reaching his peak.
Add a couple of recent encouraging trials into the equation, and his chance becomes interesting off his present handicap mark.
With blinkers equipped for the first-time, a good draw, and the eye-catching booking of Zac Purton in the saddle, the omens are looking good.
This looks a moderate contest, which won’t take much winning. Expect Purton to make his move turning into the home straight and then go for gold in the closing stages.
Trainer Danny Shum has found the right opportunity for his smart sprinter WINNING METHOD to get back on track in the Chester Handicap (2:50pm).
Shum’s stable has been in dominant form of late, with half-a-dozen winners from his last 32 runners in the past fortnight.
With the stable currently on the 40-winner mark for the season, Shum is currently joint-fourth in the trainers’ championship table. The popular local handler is well on his way to surpass his best ever total of 54 winners in Hong Kong which he reached back in the 2015/16 season.
Winning Method has yet to salute the judge this season, but there is every reason to believe he has now dropped to a mark in the handicap where he will be difficult to beat.
Having started the season, and finishing runner-up off a mark of 87, the son of Holy Roman Emperor is now racing off a 7lb lower mark, mainly due to under-performing in seven-furlong contests and competing at Sha Tin.
Now back to his optimum trip, and racing for the first time this season at Happy Valley where he has won twice and been placed three times in the past, everything points to a big run.
Add the facts, the four-year-old has a good draw and jockey Matthew Chadwick, who was the last jockey to win on him, is back in the saddle, and he must represent great value.
Champion Pride 11.45am Happy Valley
Nordic Wellstar 1.45pm Happy Valley
Winning Method (e/w) 2.50pm Happy Valley.