In the final race at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, trainer Tony Millard will be throwing the dice for a last-gasp chance at getting Zabeel four-year-old Jolly Victor into the Hong Kong Derby field next month.
Impressive first-up this season, Jolly Victor has been unlucky in three subsequent placings, two behind Derby contenders Garlic Boy and Gold-Fun.
Jolly Victor has a handicap rating well below what is required to get into the Derby, but Millard is hoping for an impressive victory to boost that official rating and to make a case for inclusion of the gelding as an improver with strong current form.
To that end, Jolly Victor will wear blinkers for the first time, often a record for success with the stock of Zabeel and anything but a win won’t be enough.
And Millard isn’t the only one looking for an eleventh-hour route into a Derby which has looked very even this year and given hope to every fringe player.
John Moore has Sunny Ying in the Jolly Victor race trying to improve his rating, and an even more interesting Derby hopeful makes his Hong Kong debut in race six needing to run well, Albiceleste. A winner of 7 of 14 runs in Italy, Albiceleste has the rating to sneak him into the Derby, but Jockey Club officials will be wanting to see something positive in the Class One over 1,650m to justify his inclusion. John Size’s Endowing and Caspar Fownes’ Rainbow Chic are in the same event and trying to gain a Derby call-up.
The meeting features two Class One events, a rarity at the midweek venue, including a 1,200m contest pitting two very much in-form sprinters against each other, Windicator Star and Valley specialist Imperial Rome. The race is stacked with speed horses, which will suit both of these strong finishers.
By Nathan Mody