Marvel Hero wins the Happy Valley Vase last season.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
By David Morgan
Marvel Hero will attempt to make good on the promise of a series of consistent efforts this term when he lines up under Joao Moreira in the Class 2 Wong Nai Chung Handicap (1800m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 7 February.
Caspar Fownes’s charge chased home the impressive Dinozzo a week ago, finishing second to John Size’s in-form galloper in a 1650m Class 2. The six-year-old had been on the same rival’s coat-tails when the pair finished third and fourth behind Eagle Way in the G3 January Cup Handicap at the course and distance early last month.
“He’s got good form around him, the horse that beat him last time won the cup race on the weekend so I’m very confident,” Moreira said at Sha Tin this morning.
A combination of Dinozzo franking the form with a clear-cut win in the G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, and the bay’s proven ability over Happy Valley’s 1800m, has the champion jockey in optimistic mood. Moreira has won three of six starts on the Irish-bred.
“I’ve won on him before over 1800 metres and based on that I think this is the best distance for him, so that gives me confidence, too,” he said.
And, while the Brazilian ace believes top-weight of 133lb is not ideal, he takes the view that it should be no bar to the Lord Shanakill gelding’s chances of sealing a first victory since the pair teamed for a course and distance score in the Class 1 Happy Valley Vase Handicap last March.
“The weight is a concern but if you look at his form he’s been carrying big weights and he’s been consistent, so that doesn’t worry me too much,” he said.
The field of eight also features last start winner Prawn Baba (125lb). Sam Clipperton rode the five-year-old to that 1800m Class 3 win on the Sha Tin dirt two weeks ago and is again in the plate.
“It’s a small field but Prawn Baba helps himself by putting himself up in a nice position,” The Australian said. “The distance is suitable and he goes up in class but it’s not a huge class rise in terms of the quality of the field, and he carried top-weight last time so he drops quite a lot in weight.”
The Size-trained galloper heads to the Valley for only the second time in his 18-race Hong Kong career, having finished second over 2200m in a Class 3 at the city venue 13 months ago. Prawn Baba has achieved his two Hong Kong wins at Wednesday night’s distance.
“He did it well last time, he did it with top-weight and the form stacks up, soif he can bring that performance he’s going to be hard to beat again,” Clipperton said. “He’s one of the main chances, he’s consistent and he’s been in good form. That last win would have given him a bit of a confidence boost so I think he’ll run well. I’m pretty confident he’ll be right in the finish again.”
Also in the field is four-time course and distance winner Packing Dragon (127lb), last year’s Hong Kong Airlines Million Challenge champion. Apprentice Matthew Poon is set to take a valuable 7lb off the front-runner’s back.
The Tony Cruz-trained Consort (117lb) is slated to make his Happy Valley debut, having run well in recent outings including when second to high-class four-year-old Exultant over 2000m two starts back. The re-opposing bottom-weight Victory Boys (114lb) was third on that occasion. Pikachu (121lb), Happilababy (114lb) and Rickfield (114lb) complete the line-up.
Wednesday night’s card commences at 11.15am with the Class 5 Bowrington Handicap (1650m) and concludes at 2.50pm with the Class 3 Sports Road Handicap (1650m). The fixture’s trophy race is the Class 4 Craigengower Cricket Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m) at 1.15pm.