Education was at the core of Harmony Hero’s debut season in Hong Kong and while the Elvstroem gelding did not master everything the syllabus threw at him, the end of term report card had him pegged as a prospective A-grader.
The bay will step out for the first time this campaign in Sunday’s (7 October) Class 2 Yew Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin and is set to carry 117lb. Trainer Richard Gibson is looking for last season’s talented three-year-old to continue his development and become a standout four-year-old this time around. But will he prove good enough to reach the top of the class?
“That’s the question we’re all asking,” Gibson said at Sha Tin this morning (Friday, 5 October). “There was a lot of education done last season and now it’s a question of whether he can step up to the plate and reach a high level.”
Harmony Hero raced four times for one win last season. That success came at his second start and was achieved in eye-catching fashion over Sunday’s course and distance. Next time out, the bay endured a rough run and finished ninth; his final start produced fourth place in a Class 2 teeming with rivals of high-grade potential.
“Because he’s been a slow learner, I never thought he reached his maturity last year; he was learning a lot in each of his races and in his trials,” Gibson said.
“The three-year-old year is tough for any horse in Hong Kong, so it was difficult training this horse last year. He only raced twice in Australia and it’s taken him a long time to learn. Now he has a season under his belt, if he’s a good horse, you’d hope to see improvement.”
Chad Schofield will partner Harmony Hero in a race for the first time. The jockey is already familiar with his mount, though; the two first paired for a gallop back in December, 2017 and Schofield has been a regular in fast work and barrier trials in recent weeks.
The Australian import’s most recent trial was at Happy Valley on 8 September when he passed the post a cruising fourth just behind the front rank.
“He’s trialled a couple of times and I’ve been very pleased with him,” Gibson said. “Chad knows the horse well; he’s helped the horse a lot in his education and deserves the ride on Sunday.”
Schofield notched five wins from 41 rides for the Gibson stable last season and is one from 10 this season after guiding Impeccable Fellow to victory at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Easy Go Easy Win (128lb) appeared to be a fast learner when kicking off his Hong Kong career with a 1200m win last December but six further starts without success highlighted the bay’s immaturity.
John Moore’s charge, like Sunday’s rival Harmony Hero, was a three-year-old pitched into tough handicaps against his elders last term – such is the Hong Kong way. His weekend rider Zac Purton is hoping that the Savabeel gelding will have learnt enough to reach his potential this time around.
“He goes well fresh and hopefully he’s matured a bit in the off-season; you’d like to hope that last season might have educated him,” the champion jockey said.
But Easy Go Easy Win still has some lessons to learn. That was evident at times last season when the bay, blinkered for his last three starts, displayed one or two raw racing manners.
“The horse just hasn’t worked it out yet,” said Purton, who has been in the plate for the four-year-old’s recent gallops and barrier trial. “He wants to do too much, then he wants to hang out on the corners, then he wants to throw it away in the straight and it might be that that’s just him.
“He has the ability but mentally he needs to do some learning – the next few months will be key for him.”
Purton worked Easy Go Easy Win on Thursday morning, travelling 800m in 51.7s (27.4, 24.3).
“I galloped him yesterday on the grass,” he said. “He’s a bit of a keen worker; he gets right up on the bit.
“In his barrier trial he wanted to pull around the corner so I gave him a little bit of rein in the straight and he didn’t want to run past them, which he’s done a few times. I just let him stride to the line and tried to give him a little bit of confidence.
“But he’s only early on in his prep,” he added. “He’s not screwed down, so this is a good starting point and he’s done enough to run well.”
The 14-runner Class 2 feature will see Morethanlucky (130lb) attempt to build on a first-up second behind Regency Bo Bo last month for trainer Frankie Lor and jockey Karis Teetan.
“The first run was pretty good. I believe the winner was the best horse on the day under the conditions, the way the track was playing and he had the claimer on,” Teetan said.
“I can go into this race very confident and positive. I think he’s definitely going to improve on that race, I don’t think he was 100 percent fit when he ran last time.”
Also in the smart field are the multiple course and distance winners Bold Stitch (124lb) and Citron Spirit (132lb), and the John Size-trained Time To Celebrate (130lb) – not seen in action since last January’s Hong Kong Classic Mile.
The Yew Handicap is the last of 10 races on Sunday’s Sha Tin card, which starts at 1pm (3pm AEST) with the Class 5 Birch Handicap (1800m).
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club