Jockey Neil Callan anticipates that a return to the Happy Valley 1200m will benefit honest galloper Powermax, who is set to make his return to the races in the Class 3 Hong Kong Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m) on Wednesday night (17 January).
The Richard Gibson-trained Powermax has proven a consistent entity throughout his Hong Kong career. His last-start eighth over the Sha Tin 1400m in late November was the first time he had missed the top four in his 13 races to date, with all of his runs before that coming at the city track.
“You can see last season that he hit a little bit of a purple patch at Happy Valley and he just seemed to take a liking for the place from day one,” Callan said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (16 January). “Last time, I think Richard just tried to see if the horse could come back to Sha Tin, wanting to see if it would suit. I think it’s not so much that Sha Tin doesn’t suit but it’s the way the races are run – they are slower through the middle stages, the fields bunch up, and he was in amongst horses and that’s not his makeup, he doesn’t like being too crowded.
“He’s going back to the Valley after a break and he’s going in there fresh. He’s pulled a good gate (four), which is important, and hopefully going back there can revive his form.”
Callan says that a key to Powermax’s chances is the reapplication of the blinkers, with the Magnus five-year-old having sported the headgear four times in the middle of 2017.
“When I was winning on him early, he was only just winning by a head or a neck, narrow margins. Even the first time I won on him, he looked like he was going to win by two lengths and he only won by a short head,” Callan said. “I said to Richard, it’s bizarre but I think he needs a pair of blinkers. It’s more to focus him than anything else.”
Powermax (125lb) is slated to meet 11 opponents in the night’s trophy race, with last-start winners Fairy Twins (131lb) and Arm Runda (127lb) and lightweights Royal Mojito (119lb) and Phantom Falcon (118lb) among his rivals.
In Wednesday’s closer, the Class 3 Club Street Handicap (1200m), Callan partners Caspar Fownes’ Cheerfuljet (122lb), an easy winner of his last two starts in Class 4. It will be the Irish rider’s first time aboard the Darci Brahma four-year-old, with regular rider Zac Purton instead riding Charity Glory (127lb) for Danny Shum.
“I was booked to ride Charity Glory a long way out so that’s just the way it’s worked out,” Purton said. “They’ve both been racing well this season and both horses enter with some type of chance. Cheerfuljet is certainly progressive now that he is over the internal issues that he had, he’s racing much better and he’s a bit more relaxed during the run too, finding a bit more.
“Charity Glory’s gallop was good the other day, it’s the best feel he’s given me this season so I think he’s in pretty good form as well. He wasn’t comfortable at the 1000m, so back up in distance he can travel a little bit better. Hopefully the speed is nice so he can relax, which is the key to him.”
The Club Street Handicap closes the card at 10.50pm, with the opener, the Class 4 Murray Handicap (1000m), set to start at 7.15pm.