Undeterred by a string of near misses since arriving in Hong Kong, Brenton Avdulla is hopeful of claiming an elusive breakthrough victory when he pairs with a host of leading chances at Sha Tin on Sunday.
With four thirds from 23 rides across five meetings this month, Avdulla has quickly absorbed the nuances of Hong Kong racing and is hopeful Sweet Encounter, Mighty Stride and Loriz can deliver landmark success.
“I feel like the rides that I’ve got coming over the next couple of weeks are getting a bit stronger, too, so a lot more competitive chances, even on Sunday so I’m sure the winner won’t be far away,” the Australian said.
“I feel I’ve adapted to the racing really well so now it’s just a matter of getting on the right horses at the right time.
“We obviously started off the first meeting, just missing on the first ride (beaten a head on Loriz on 3 May) and we’ve had plenty of rides that were outside the market, but I’m getting good support from a variety of trainers now and a few more are starting to jump on board, so we’re getting a bit closer.”
Prominent among Avdulla’s rides at the weekend is John Size-trained Sweet Encounter, who contests the Class 2 Para Sports Coach Handicap (1600m) as a four-time winner at Sha Tin and a solid last-start third behind emerging star Straight Arron.
“Sweet Encounter’s got the right form there and he’s in good order so I’m expecting him to go there on Sunday and run well. He’s drawn a bit awkward (gate 10) but he’s a horse who, early on in his career, was racing on speed, but know John thinks he’s better off being ridden a fraction quieter and he’ll hit the line.
“He’s got good form but he’s going to need a bit of luck from the draw and do things right and, if he gets things run to suit, then we’ll be okay hopefully. Sha Tin is going to give him a chance to wind up.”
Winner of 13 Australian Gr1 races, Avdulla replaces suspended compatriot Hugh Bowman on Ricky Yiu’s consistent Mighty Stride in the Class 3 Para Sports Volunteer Handicap (1400m).
“He looks a nice chance. He was obviously a winner in Class 3 a couple of runs ago, Hughy gave him a nice ride and he ran well. Then the other day he had that softish track and he just didn’t look like he was as comfortable on it,” Avdulla said.
“He’s obviously up in the weight (135lb) but he’s racing consistently and he’s drawn well (barrier five), so he should get a good chance in running and I reckon he’ll run well.”
Unplaced for the first time in a six-start career on 7 May, Mighty Stride faces a swathe of intriguing talents including Sinba, Beauty Inspire and debut runner-up Hameron for Luke Ferraris.
“Hameron has been doing everything right so far, he’s got a bit of a tricky draw at the weekend but I hope that if he gets a bit of luck in running, things can go his way,” Ferraris said. “The step up in trip will definitely suit him, 1200m is a bit short for him. Sha Tin will probably be a bit easier from that draw, but hopefully he can finish off like at his debut. He switches off nicely and he’s a lovely horse to ride.”
Following Wednesday night’s double, Ferraris has 25 winners this campaign and the young rider is eager to add more before season’s end.
“It’s great to improve on what I did last season (20 wins) and hopefully I can keep building on what I’ve done so far this season and hopefully just keep the ball rolling. I tend to take it as it comes. You want to set goals but you don’t really want to set them too big because if you miss, you get disappointed – and especially in a place like this – so I just try to get the best result out of each horse.”
A reminder that your Hollywoodbets Punters’ Challenge entry must be in five minutes before the first race.
Sunday’s 10-race card kicks off with the Class 4 Wheelchair Fencing Handicap at 07h00.