House Of Fun
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
By David Morgan
House Of Fun (114lb) will attempt to turn the tables on stablemate Premiere (115lb) in Sundays’ (7 January) straight track speed test at Sha Tin, the Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m).
A short-head separated the John Size-trained pair in a Class 2 contest at the course and distance at the end of November, when Premiere took the spoils ahead of the unlucky-in-running House Of Fun. Champion jockey Joao Moreira, successful aboard both horses in the past, had to check his run at a vital stage on House Of Fun before driving the five-year-old to a narrow miss.
“I believe House Of Fun can beat Premiere,” Moreira said at Sha Tin this morning, Friday, 5 January. “When I rode him over the 1000 metres, when Premiere beat him, there were a few issues. We didn’t have a really good start, and in the last 150 metres I got a little bit of a traffic jam; when he was able to get himself through the gap he came to nearly win.
“Based on that run, with the light weight on his back, I think he’s a good chance. He
felt great in his barrier trial - he’s in good shape. I believe he’s good enough, that’s why I chose him as my ride.”
House Of Fun carried 1lb less than Premiere in that tussle and the handicap difference between the two is the same again, with the latter having his first race since.
“It’s hard to measure how good they are, comparing both, but what I can say is that House Of Fun was very unlucky not to beat Premiere three starts ago and I think this time can be his turn,” Moreira said.
House Of Fun has since placed a nose second to the late-closing Fight Hero in a Class 2 dirt race over 1200m, and last time out, at Happy Valley on 20 December, the Size-trained galloper finished a fair fourth behind the re-opposing Archippus (118lb) in a 1200m Class 2.
“House Of Fun’s been a little bit unlucky in two races so he might have his luck in this race. He’s been very strong and trained well and he’s racing consistently,” Size said.
“His (latest) barrier trial was quite good; he was a little slowly away at Happy Valley last start, which is unusual for him, but in the trial he seemed to be okay.”
Size is also pleased with Premiere’s progress going into Sunday’s feature. Last season’s Champion Griffin has raced exclusively at 1000m this term and is chasing a third career win at the course and distance to go with his four 1000m scores at Happy Valley. Karis Teetan retains the ride at the weekend.
“Even though he’s only been racing at 1000 metres, he seems stronger and he seems to be racing better, he seems to know what he’s doing and he’s finishing his races better. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the improvement that he’s made,” Size said.
“He has the use of the outside rail (drawn eight of eight), so I’m happy with that, and I think it looks another suitable race for him.”
As to which of his duo he thinks might hold the upper-hand, the champion trainer said: “They were very close together the last time they raced so I expect something similar.”
Archippus, meanwhile, heads into Sunday having stormed to a well-deserved win at Happy Valley last time. That was over 1200m but Paul O’Sullivan’s consistent galloper was only three quarters of a length behind the Size pair when third in the aforementioned Class 2 at the course and distance on 26 November.
The two-time course and distance winner conceded 3lb and 4lb to those two rivals on that occasion and the difference will be the same on Sunday off a career peak rating of 107.
“He’s been honest his whole life and he’s in top form, jockey Derek Leung said of the seven-year-old Hong Kong International Sale Graduate.
“He’s shown his ability at 1000m before and with a light weight, only 118 pounds, if we can find cover in the race, I expect him to finish strongly.”
Leung, who this week became a father for the first time, is enjoying his best season by some way. Last season’s Tony Cruz Award winner - a title given to the leading rider among those that have passed through the Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School - enjoyed his greatest moment in the saddle on 10 December when he guided Beauty Generation to victory in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
“I hope Archippus can give me another Group race win,” he said. “The horse and I will just try to do our best and if we have some luck, we might win.
“When a jockey gets a Group 1 win, you get more confidence, but also the owners and trainers have more confidence to put you on horses with nice chances, so that means more opportunities. I just have to prove that I’m up to taking those chances now.”
The field of eight also features top-weight and 2016 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy winner Not Listenin’tome (133lb) and his John Moore-trained stablemate Magic Legend (114lb); three-time course and distance winner Bad Boy (116lb), part-owned by actor and martial artist Donnie Yen; Fabulous One (113lb) and My Little Friend (113lb).
The 10-race card starts at 1pm with the Class 4 Azalea Handicap (1000m) and concludes with the Class 2 Violet Handicap (1600m) at 5.45pm. The Bauhinia Sprint Trophy is race seven (4.05pm).
Joao Moreira hopes House Of Fun can make amends by beating his stablemate Premiere in Sunday’s Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap.
Premiere (black and orange silks) edges House Of Fun (white and blue silks) to win a 1000m Class 2 at Sha Tin on 26 November.
Archippus was impressive when taking a 1200m Class 2 at Happy Valley last month.