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Dancing Fighter returns to action at Happy Valley on Wednesday morning with top-weight, a wide draw and a three-month absence to overcome if he is to complete a hat-trick of wins.
The smart bay has not finished outside the top two in his six career starts and while jockey Joao Moreira is confident his mount has more improvement within, trainer Caspar Fownes is taking a wary view of the circumstances his 4-year-old finds himself in for the Class 3 Kong Sin Wan Handicap (1200m).
"If he'd drawn a nice gate I'd have been quite confident because he seems to be going to the next level but 133 pounds and gate nine, fresh up from a break, it could be tough," Fownes acknowledged.
"We never seem to have much luck with the draw with this horse - every time, he draws a wide gate so it makes it hard. Now he's at the top of the weights and it's going to be even harder."
Moreira, though, takes heart from Dancing Fighter's barrier trial on March 7, in which the 77-rated Zoustar gelding traveled sweetly outside the leader and cruised home in front under a hold.
"I was extremely happy with the trial and I think he's ready to go to the races. It's a strong race, so obviously we have to respect some of the other horses but at the same time, I've got to go into the race with confidence," the Brazilian said.
"I don't think he's 100 percent fit but that doesn't mean I don't think he can win, because he's not even close to what he's going to get up to in the ratings. I do think he's a good horse and he's up-and-coming."
Race 6 at Happy Valley, Hong Kong on Wednesday, March 25 - Post 9:45 AM
|9||Dancing Fighter||4-1||Joao Moreira
|3||Wind N Grass||7-1||Grant Van Niekerk
|2||Ganesh Talai||40-1||Jack Wong
|8||Smart Leader||6-1||Blake Shinn
|A S Cruz|
|4||Big Fortune||17-2||Matthew Chadwick
|C W Chang|
|11||Copartner Spirit||50-1||Matthew Poon
|12||What A Legend||15-2||Chad Schofield
|10||Dollar Reward||12-1||Alex Lai
|C S Shum|
|5||Very Rich Man||40-1||Victor Wong
|7||Hang`s Decision||40-1||Keith Yeung
|W Y So|
The 12-runner contest also features Wind N Grass (129 lbs), a good third under Moreira last time and now the mount of Grant van Niekerk, as well as the Zac Purton-ridden Shouson (122 lbs).
Dancing Fighter, who runs in the colors of celebrity Aaron Kwok, took things very easily from mid-December, including a spell at Conghua, through to his return to full training at Sha Tin in early February.
"He's always had little issues here and there, so we've just been looking after him and he's done his job - six starts, three wins, three seconds. We've just given him some time like he's a nice horse and I felt he was ready to go to the races again," Fownes said.
"He's getting there, he's really well, he's in good form and I'm sure he'll run well - it just depends what sort of run he gets from the gate."
Moreira and Fownes will also team up in the finale, the other section of the Class 3 Kong Sin Wan Handicap (1200m), with the progressive Green Reign.
"He's good he's got a good draw (post three) - he'll get his chance from gate three. He seems to be improving and he's been very consistent without winning so hopefully he gets his chance this time," Fownes said.
Last time out, Moreira was forced to settle the Lope De Vega four-year-old at the tail of the field from gate 12 and ran on smartly to finish three quarters of a length second to This Is Class.
"I had to drag him back, so the good gate this time will give us options to be more forward if we want," the rider said.
"He's a very nice horse and it won't be long before his wins his race - it might be this time. It looks like he's there, ready to win."
Fownes, who has six runners on the night, is hoping for better fortune than last time when Naboo Star steps out in the evening's penultimate contest, the Class 3 Po Chong Wan Handicap (1650m).
Derby-winning rider Vincent Ho was stuck behind horses two weeks ago, as Naboo Star passed the post a close fifth over 1800m with unused petrol in the tank.
"Last time was a bit of a nightmare because I thought he was the best horse in the race," Fownes said.
"When mine are the best in the race I don't like to ride for luck - they're entitled to come out and I don't mind them losing a length here and there because I feel they can pick it up when they're clear.
"It was unfortunate because he should have got the job done and we've had no option but to drop him back in trip, which is not ideal."
Ho will be in the plate again, attempting to take his record on the Hong Kong International Sale graduate to three wins from five attempts.
Ho foiled Blake Shinn's audacious run for glory aboard Playa Del Puente in Sunday's BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), with a surging late charge on Golden Sixty.
Shinn described his near-miss on the 289/1 shot as "bittersweet" but he is hoping for nothing but the sweet taste of victory with Green Dispatch in Wednesday's Class 4 Tin Wan Handicap (1650m).
The Australian gained his first Hong Kong win with a front-running display on Green Dispatch back in September and was then third on the Danny Shum-trained grey at his only subsequent start on March 4.
"I thought his run a couple of weeks ago was very good, I felt he was a bit luckless not to win," Shinn said of the 8-year-old. "Our plan was to go forward but he didn't step the best and couldn't muster speed so I had to ride him quietly and I just didn't get the luck at the right time. The winner Tangmere beat me to the run that I would have ideally liked to have got at the top of the straight.
"With a bit more luck tomorrow night he might go close. I think he's better off rolling in front but that last start gave me the confidence that if it doesn't work out I can ride him back and he's still got the ability to win."
And of his accomplished ride to second in the Derby, he said: "We got so close to winning one of the most prestigious races in the world. Did I think I was going to do that before the race? Not really, but I always go in hoping I'm going to win the race.
"But I'm proud to have run second in the race and I'm very proud of my horse's effort and hopefully I'll get my chance one day to get my name up in lights in the race."
Wednesday morning's action starts at 7:15 a.m. ET / 4:15 a.m. PT with the Class 5 Waterfall Bay Handicap (1650m).
Race 1: #12 Virtus Star, #1 Galaxy Racer, #3 Great Garvest, #2 Bundle Of Energy
Race 2:: #9 Murray's Partners, #2 Happy Warrior, #8 Nunchuks, #3 Casa De Forca
Race 3: #12 Farm Bumper, #1 Zero Hedge, #4 Winning Ways, #3 Winner's Heart
Race 4: #6 Methane, #11 Blooming Spirit, #4 Green Dispatch, #1 Dor Dor
Race 5: #2 Mehboob, #6 Super Lucky, #10 Super Alliances, #5 All You Know
Race 6: #7 Shouson, #1 Dancing Fighter, #2 Wind N Grass, #9 What A Legend
Race 7: #7 Naboo Star, #3 Cinquante Cinq, #6 Jolly Honour, #9 Dynamic Eagle
Race 8: #6 Green Reign, #7 Beauty Spark, #3 Winning Method, #8 Victory Power
#12 Virtus Star is winless. Although this is the case, he has shown steady improvement across his short career and off a rating of 25 now, he could prove tough to beat, especially with Zac Purton jumping in the plate off the back of an eye-catching trial.
#1 Galaxy Racer is another who is winless. He has been beaten by less than a length in both of his last two starts and if he's continued to hold his condition out of those, he's going to be in the finish. He has 133 lbs to carry but the inside draw should allow him to do minimal work in the run.
#3 Great Harvest is drawn to get all of the favors and with even luck he's going to be thereabouts for Matthew Chadwick.
#2 Bundle Of Energy has become a costly conveyance and although he's still winless, his best still warrants plenty of respect, especially with Joao Moreira up.
#9 Murray's Partners couldn't have been more impressive in a recent trial and if he translates that to race day, then he's going to prove tough to catch. Zac Purton takes the reins which is a good push and this race appears his to lose.
#2 Happy Warrior is proven over the course and distance and he rarely runs a bad race. He has an awkward draw to overcome but his race-experience holds him in good stead for this.
#8 Nunchuks is winless but has shown his quality across his short five-start career. He isn't far away from finally piecing it all together.
#3 Casa De Forca is next best from the inside gate with Joao Moreira up.
#12 Farm Bumper got off the mark impressively last start. He rises to Class 4 now which is always difficult but from the soft gate, with Chad Schofield engaged again, he's going to get every chance.
#1 Zero Hedge is unlucky not to have already won a race this term, having finished runner-up on five occasions. The in-form Grant van Niekerk is up and this race is well within his grasp.
#4 Winning Ways won well two starts ago. He has finally hit his straps and again rates as a leading player here.
#3 Winner's Heart narrowly missed last time out. He can figure again with a similar run here.
#6 Methane got off the mark two starts ago and followed that up with a narrow defeat over this course and distance. Still, he's in top condition at the moment and with a clean run throughout, he can take this out.
#11 Blooming Spirit has gone to a new level this season. He gets in light with only 121 lbs on his back and from the inside draw, he can figure.
#4 Green Dispatch gave Blake Shinn his first Hong Kong win and he could very well deliver him another here. He's the likely leader of this and if he sets a tempo to suit himself, he could take a power of running down.
#1 Dor Dor is in career-best form however, from the draw he'll need a stack of luck in a race littered with pace.
#2 Mehboob is a model of consistency and his good fortune can continue here with a win. He has yet to finish outside of the top three this season, which includes one win and with Zac Purton hopping aboard again, it's a good push around his chances.
#6 Super Lucky is looking to snap a string of three runner-up efforts. He's in-form and it's only a matter of time before he goes on with it.
#10 Super Alliances has mixed his form but prior to his last-start failure he tallied two runner-up efforts. If he can recapture these he's in with a shout, especially from the good draw.
#5 All You Know is next best.
#7 Shouson is a two-time winner this campaign and is really starting to show his class. He narrowly missed last start but nevertheless, he's consistent, in-form and with Zac Purton hopping aboard, remains the one to beat.
#1 Dancing Fighter is a supreme talent with three wins next to his name from six starts. Still, although his win last start was strong, he's going to need to carry an added 10 lbs and the wide gate is against him here.
#2 Wind N Grass rattled home for a narrow defeat last start. He has the inside draw on his side and with further improvement, he shouldn't be too far away.
#9 What A Legend is next best.
#7 Naboo Star was awfully unlucky last start but still, he gets an excellent chance to atone for that performance here and with even luck he is the one to beat.
#3 Cinquante Cinq is a model of consistency. He appears to have a number of ratings points still in hand and as a two-time course and distance winner, he warrants respect.
#6 Jolly Honour has gone close in his last two outings. He can figure with the right run.
#9 Dynamic Eagle is next best.
#6 Green Reign is a talent on the rise. He has twice narrowly missed this term at the city circuit and with the right on Wednesday night, he is capable of going on with it. He'll need luck, especially if he settles back in the field but, if he gets it, he's the one they all have to beat.
#7 Beauty Spark has finished third in his last four starts. Zac Purton sticks aboard for the third consecutive time and it could third time lucky for him.
#3 winning Method has lost a bit of form but still, if he manages to find the front for Matthew Chadwick he could still prove hard to reel in.
#8 Victory Power is a course and distance winner already this term. He'll be thereabouts.
|Race Tracks||Time (EST)|