Fantastic Eight (113lb) aims to make his mark in Class 2 on Wednesday (20 December) night but the impressive last-start winner will likely face competition for his favoured front-running role in what promises to be an exciting finale at Happy Valley.
Jockey Umberto Rispoli expects hot competition right from the break in the Mercury Handicap (1200m).
“There are a few fast horses in the race so that could be a little bit against him,” the Italian said. “Fabulous One (132lb) is a fast horse, Wah May Friend (133lb) from the outside will probably try to go forward with the apprentice on, and there is Almababy (115lb), too, who likes to go forward. But Fantastic Eight is a horse that thrives on speed.”
Ricky Yiu’s charge has never finished out of the first two in eight Hong Kong starts and heads into the midweek feature with a perfect course and distance record. The bay gelding posted a storming three-length Class 3 win on his Valley debut last month.
“We’ll see now if he’s good enough to compare with the good horses in Class 2,” said Rispoli. “The low weight is a big help so hopefully he can use that good speed he has from the gate.”
Fantastic Eight will break from gate three, and the rider believes that is a big bonus for the Duporth four-year-old who has an unconventional racing action.
“I just need to be careful that he’s balanced, with his strange action, to make sure he’s really good on his legs, and when he’s well-balanced give him the chance to sprint home like he did last time. It’s the C+3 course, so the low draw will help a lot,” he said.
Fabulous One is another that has made his name as a trailblazing galloper, notching five wins two seasons ago, all from the front. After rising to a peak rating of 108 and competing at the Dubai Carnival last term, Chris So’s charge finds himself back down in a Class 2 contest at the course and distance for the first time since the latest of his wins back in June, 2016.
“It’s his second start back in Class 2 now, his rating (103) has dropped a bit and I think Happy Valley suits him better because the straight is shorter than at Sha Tin,” So said.