Luke Middlebrook: There is a highly competitive card at Happy Valley in Hong Kong on Wednesday but all eyes will be on the final race, the Class 2 1200m Handicap, where thriving three-year-old Campione will be aiming for a local hat-trick of wins.
The Tony Cruz-trained youngster has hit the ground running in Hong Kong after arriving unbeaten from three starts under the name Windstormblack in Italy – his last win there a five-length romping in a Group 3 1200m after a 14-length demolition job in a Three-Year-Old Handicap, all the while showing brilliant tactical speed on each occasion.
Finishing a good fourth on debut in Hong Kong in early March, he then went three places better second-up when winning well by leading from pillar to post in a Class 3 1200m Handicap.
Third-up, he took to the all-weather track where he won comfortably by 1.50 lengths, again making all after stepping away from barrier No 12.
Campione has since turned in a solid trial while his early toe will give him every chance to win again this week as he looks the clear leader.
His main adversaries will come from trainer David Hayes’ talented four-year-old Lucky With You who returned to winning ways over this distance at Sha Tin last time, while Mclucky looks a big second-up improver after a wide trip first-up over an unsuitable 1000m but trialling the house down since.
Trainer Frankie Lor’s smart three-year-old Eason is another who can show early speed and he rises to Class 2 for the first time after stringing together two impressive Class 3 victories.
Elsewhere, trainer Danny Shum’s six-year-old Harmony N Home looks poised for a return to the winner’s circle in the Class 4 1200m Handicap (Race 5).
Harmony N Home has not won for 420 days but is at his third start back into Class 4 and he enters the race on a mark of 55 – his last win occurring on a handicap rating of 64, so he is very well-placed at the moment.
Despite having not placed in eight starts this season, he has been drawn horribly wide in six of those starts, stepping away from no lower than barrier No 10 while drawn in barrier No 11 on three occasions and widest in barrier No 12 in two races.
Still, he has caught the eye late in many of those runs in Class 3, all the while sliding down the ratings.
Harmony N Home enters today’s race off the back of a slashing fourth place from barrier No 11 under Zac Purton, who commits to the ride again this week but has been handed a much kinder drawn in barrier No 4. Purton has been the sole rider to win on Harmony N Home, having guided the gelding in his two career victories.
Race 1: Diamond Star racing in career-best form and must be rated a good chance to score two wins on end for an in-form John Size stable. Run The Table drops down in grade and start following. Man Up change of trainer recently and can improve at his second try in Class 5. Daily Beauty looks overdue for a win and enters this race in good form after two placings recently. Smiling Face remains a maiden galloper but clearly gets a chance to win here after many runs into placings.
Race 2: Happy Daily drops down in grade and start following. With Purton taking the ride from barrier 2, and off the back of a good fourth place in Class 3, he looks hardest to beat. Hyperion Tree change of trainer recently and can improve. Kowloon Great caught the eye last start when running home well in Class 3, he can improve dropping into Class 4 for the first time. E Legend was an easy last start winner and must be respected, but barrier 10 looks awkward. Win Win Fighter has been placed last two starts and deserves a win soon.
Race 3: A wide-open race with many chances. Sun Of Makfi looks overdue for a win and enters this race in good form after finishing in the placings in his four most recent runs. Reach Goal last run suggested a win was very near after a slashing second place, but he needs to prove it no fluke. Winning Volatility had excuses last start, when racing wide, and forget the run. Fast Pace backing up quickly from last week, can run well with some luck from barrier 12. Sunny Delight turned in a nice effort last run when finishing strongly into third place.
Race 4: See U Again caught the eye last start running home powerfully in a race that wasn’t run to suit. He has trialled well since and can win. Charming Steed had genuine excuses last start when a beaten favourite but consider again. Shining Fortune having third start and may improve here after showing some promise in two runs so far. Good News will be suited by the rise in distance and can run well from barrier 1. Happy Sharing drops down in grade and start following after a nice third place in Class 3 last time.
Race 5: Harmony N Home caught the eye last start when running home well but coming into barrier 4 can see him map much closer and score an overdue win at his third start back into Class 4. Gang Of Brothers is the next-best winning chance and will get all favours step- ping away from barrier 1. Durham Star good performance when storming home for third place last start but he will need luck from gate 12. Singapore Spirit faded late last start, chance to improve under right race shape second-up from a break. Hercules looks overdue for a win and enters this race in good form.
Race 6: Flaming Passion ultra-consistent galloper and who can get his chance to win as he has drawn ideally low barrier 1. He gets his chance to score his first Class 3 win. Drops Of God was not disgraced last start when beaten by a very smart horse at Sha Tin. Barrier 10 looks awkward, but he is good enough to win this. Scotch Tycoon had excuses last start when racing wide without cover. Magic Phoenix well supported last start, but was only fair into fifth, give another chance. Encountered has been very well prepared with several trials, watch the betting.
Race 7: Atullibigeal go on solid previous effort at this track and distance where form looked okay. From barrier 1 under Purton, he will be getting his chance. Smart Idea winner of last two starts and is a big chance to score his hat-trick of wins here. Sky Forever has been knocking on the door and win won’t surprise anyone, he won’t have many excuses from barrier 2. Stormtrouper backing up quickly from a good last start effort and can run well again. Nicconi County go on the win two starts ago and give a chance to improve here back at the city circuit.
Race 8: Another even contest here. Packing Award nice four-year-old with a good chance with some luck from the wide draw, however there is good speed engaged for those who choose to take an early sit. Crossford caught the eye last start when running home well and he seems nearing another win. Nothing New more than capable of winning again in this race after shedding his local maiden tag nicely last start. Viva Hunter well supported last start and won accordingly, he will give a sight again. Packing Famous winner of last two starts and is a big chance here.
Race 9: Campione smart three-year-old who is the one to beat. He should ping the gates and be giving them all something to run down in race where there doesn’t seem too much pace engaged. Lucky With You talented four-year-old who can test Campione. He will take a sit just off the pace and be making a late bid. Mclucky can improve second-up from a break off an impressive trial win. Eason another smart three-year-old who is rising in class and meets better quality horses but can measure up. Keep You Warm never far away from the winner and could sneak a place.