HARLEY KICKS INTO GEAR WITH DEBUT HK SUCCESS
It may have taken a few weeks, but Martin Harley’s Hong Kong adventure is finally off and running.
The Irishman knew what he was up against when starting a four-month contract in February – and duly struggled to get good rides – but High Five’s thrilling 87-1 success in the Fenwick Handicap at Happy Valley on Wednesday night showed that Harley is more than good enough if the opportunity presents itself.
Martin Harley's off the mark and he's only gone and done it on an 87/1 shot! The rider gets his first Hong Kong win on the Tony Millard-trained High Five ✋ #HKracing #HappyWednesday pic.twitter.com/gjlJQX2WO2
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 6, 2019
“The first few rides have been a good learning curve,” he said. “It’s not like English racing, you can’t stay jollied up to the furlong pole and then expect them to go – you have to keep the rhythm up here.
“That’s a good confidence booster. It’s a big relief and it’s proven that I can ride a winner or maybe more in Hong Kong.”
TRIAL ROMP SUGGESTS MULTIMILLION IS BACK ON SONG
Harley’s four rides at Sha Tin on Sunday seem unlikely to yield another winner but do include an interesting British import in the Hyacinth Handicap, due off at 6.30 GMT.
The horse in question rejoices in the name of Grandma Win but was formerly Ninetythreetwenty when winning two out of three and finishing sixth in the Coventry Stakes for Richard Fahey last year.
Seven Heavens is another British recruit – he showed smart form form for John Gosden in 2017 – and he’s fresh from a fine second over course and distance last month.
He looks poised to go well again with the help of Victor Wong’s 7lb claim for the first time, but the speedy Multimillion looked firmly back on track with a runaway recent trial success and Tony Cruz’s gelding could be hard to peg back with Karis Teetan getting down to his minimum weight of 8st 1lb to ride him.
BAYLISS OUT TO BREAK HK DUCK ON CHAMPION’S
With Harley having broken his Hong Kong duck, it now falls on fellow recent arrival Regan Bayliss to try and do the same.
The 21-year-old has partnered over 350 winners in his native Australia and, after a quiet start in his new base, Sunday presents him with by far his best chance of a winner so far when he deputises for suspended Joao Moreira aboard Champion’s Way in the Oncidium Handicap at 9.10.
Champion's Way wins the Volunteers' Challenge Cup to go 2 from 2 despite his immaturity; the exciting 3yo gives @zpurton a double on the night. #HKracing #HappyWednesday pic.twitter.com/H9k8dsLpVI
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 20, 2019
The last named looks particularly dangerous after overcoming considerable trouble in running over course and distance and Zac Purton’s game plan will be important given that Solar Wei Wei is also drawn wide in 11.
Bayliss won’t be expecting any favours from the wily champ but Champion’s Way has looked well ahead of the handicapper in scoring twice at Happy Valley and could still be nicely in despite a 10lb hike to a mark of 70.
FUTHER RAIN COULD HELP HIGH RISE AGAIN IN £260,000 FEATURE
Bayliss has clearly been networking well to secure nine rides on the card and it would come as no surprise to see him conjure a big run from Rise High in the featured Lavender Handicap at 8.05.
This ex-Irish gelding was unbeaten in two runs when known as Landfall for Ken Condon and progressed rapidly for new trainer Caspar Fownes in the second half of last season, completing a hat-trick under Zac Purton on a rain-softened track in July.
Purton seems to prefer impressive recent winner What Else But You this time, while Silvestre de Sousa is hoping to shake off a bout of back trouble to partner the ultra-consistent Simply Brilliant.
That pair finished ahead of Rise High when they filled the placings in the Chevalier Cup here before Christmas, but Rise High is a great deal better off at the weights this time and if the forecast for a wet weekend in HK proves accurate then his prospects will look brighter still.