Caspar Fownes hopes Straight Arron can erase memories of BMW Hong Kong Derby frustrations with a winning performance in the Class 2 Wan Chai Gap Handicap at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Storming from ninth at top of the straight, Straight Arron recorded the second-fastest final 400m sectional of 22.28s – a time bettered only by runner-up Tuchel’s 22.27s – to surge into fifth place and finish only two lengths behind Voyage Bubble on 19 March.
Vincent Ho takes over from Blake Shinn from barrier seven on Sunday when 84-rater Straight Arron carries only 120lb in his Class 2 debut.
“It was a really good run,” Fownes said of Straight Arron’s BMW Hong Kong Derby effort. “We were unfortunately in the wrong spot as it turned out but he’s pulled up well and we’re looking forward to the race on Sunday.
“He is where we want him to be for the race coming up. Obviously, it’s a strong race, there’s a lot of quality horses in there but I believe he’s a horse who will get well into the triple figures (with rating of 100 or better).
“I’d be confident to say he’s going to get to 100 and once they cross that line it becomes tough for them. He’s a horse we don’t know where his true rating is. He’s just starting to put it all together – Sunday will tell us a little bit going forward but in my heart I believe he will get to 100.
“The rain is around and we don’t know what that’s going to be like on Sunday but leading into the race I’m happy with him – he looks a treat – and I would be disappointed if he’s not there in the finish.”
A Group 3 winner in Australia for Chris Waller over 1600m in April 2022, Straight Arron will renew rivalry with three other horses who competed in the BMW Hong Kong Derby – Sword Point (sixth), Sweet Encounter (seventh) and Beautyverse (12th).
Eager to continue a strong run of form with six winners from 21 runners so far this month, Jamie Richards will unleash unraced Hong Kong International Sale graduate Dan Attack under Zac Purton in the Class 4 Middle Gap Handicap (1000m).
“He’s been trialling well. He’s a nice, big strong horse. He’s a four-year-old by the right stallion – he’s by Deep Field – so he’s got a few things going for him and I’ve been happy with the way he’s been trialling up, so looking forward to seeing him making his debut,” Richards said.
“He’s drawn out (barrier 10) on the right side for the straight course, Zac’s on him and whatever he does, he will improve on – but he’s going the right way. He’s a nice horse, we like him and hopefully he’s forward enough to give a good account of himself.”
With 27 wins from 235 starters this season, Richards has the third-highest winning strike rate (11.5%) among Hong Kong’s trainers behind Ricky Yiu (12.7%) and John Size (11.6%).
The New Zealander hopes to enhance that figure with Galvanic, who contests the Class 4 Pottinger Peak Handicap (1400m), also under Purton.
“He’s been racing consistently and he hasn’t had much luck with barrier draws and he’s been caught wide a couple of times and he’s gone forward and done a bit of work,” Richards said. “On the weekend, he’s finally got a nice gate (barrier two) and Zac is on him, so hopefully he gets a nice sit in behind them with a bit of cover and can finish off the race strongly.
“He’s going to get every chance from barrier two.”
Silvestre de Sousa believes Hava Nageela is poised to post successive wins when the import competes in the Class 3 D’Aguilar Peak Handicap (1650m, dirt) this weekend.
“He likes the track and he feels very comfortable on the track and he won very nicely on the All-Weather and I presume if he comes to this race in the same form, he should be very competitive,” the Brazilian said.
“I think he’s a horse who has a little bit of class and especially now that the penny has dropped, he can be competitive.”
Sunday’s 10-race card Sha Tin card kicks off with the Class 3 D’Aguilar Peak Handicap at 07h00.