Mongolian King (127lb) will attempt to make it two wins on the bounce when he lines up in a tough edition of the Class 2 Yuen Long Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, 24 September.
The smart gelding notched his first score for the term at the season opener three weeks ago. That was in the same grade at the same course and distance, but, after receiving a six-point ratings rise, jockey Umberto Rispoli is under no illusions as to the task his mount faces.
“It’s difficult to win two Class 2 races in a row,” he said. “But in the way he’s working, and his improvement from last season, he has a chance.
“He was fresh first-up and he ran really well – he was ready to run that race,” the Italian continued. “I think the field is a bit stronger than last time and he’s got a little bit more weight. His draw is good though, and I won’t be disappointed if this rain continues through Sunday – he prefers it if it’s a little bit wet, and if he gets some pace up front, that will help him, too.”
Me Tsui’s charge will face six of the rivals he defeated last start when he takes his place in Sunday’s 14-runner closer, due off at 5.45pm. Solar Hei Hei (129lb) ran a length and a quarter second, Baba Mama (120lb) was third, California Whip (133lb) fourth, Healthy Joyful (119lb) fifth, Hang’s Decision (131lb) sixth and Encounter (127lb) 10th. This time, the likes of Keen Venture (124lb), Jolly Jolly (124lb) and Rickfield (118lb) will enter the fray.
“Those horses that he beat last time, you’d think they will improve for their first run and will be stronger this time. Baba Mama stands out from that, I think he’s the one to beat,” Rispoli said.
Joao Moreira will side with Baba Mama. Peter Ho’s five-year-old notched two wins in the first part of last term, a campaign in which the gelding raced 14 times. The champion jockey has been in the plate once before, a sixth place finish over a mile in March.
“He’s a good enough horse to win this race – he’s a nice horse,” Moreira said. “I rode him last season and I just think he was flat, tired for the season, and now he comes in with just one start so far. He ran really well, so I’m keen to see how he performs because I think he’s a nice horse.
Baba Mama gets a 5lb pull in the weights with Mongolian King for a length and a quarter defeat and Moreira is pleased with the New Zealand-bred gelding’s prep.
“He’s going great. I galloped him on Monday and he gave me a good feel again,” he said. “Based on his first-up run the other day, you’d think, even going up in class, he could win again.”
Moreira remains on 15 wins for the season after a blank on Wednesday night at Happy Valley. The Brazilian is hoping the exciting Household King (120lb), too, will add to his tally when he lines up in race nine at the weekend.
“He’s a very impressive type of horse,” he said of Danny Shum’s once-raced charge.
Moreira enjoyed a smooth ride when Household King broke fast from the gate and made all for a two and a half-length score in a 1200m Class 4 at the season opener. The four-year-old received a 13-point hike in the ratings for that impressive debut and lines up in the Class 3 Tin Shui Wai Handicap (1400m) rated 65.
“I honestly wouldn’t want to lead,” Moreira said. “I led on him the other day because he jumped so well and if I didn’t use him to come across we might have got stuck wide, and we didn’t want that. Hopefully, this time, the pace will be genuine enough so that I can slot myself into the top four. But I need to speak to Danny Shum first and we’ll take it from there, so there’s not a specific plan yet.”
The Hussonet gelding, a graduate of the March 2017 Hong Kong International Sale, has caught the eye of many observers as a smart prospect going forward and Moreira is in agreement.
“No doubt,” he said. “He’s improved from that first run. He’s definitely one of those horses that you will be watching throughout the season – he will do really well.”
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club