By Andrew Hawkins
Chris So has had his best season to date with 45 wins on the board and the handler is hoping that Flying Monkey can add to his tally in the Class 4 Nightjar Handicap (1000m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (3 May).
Flying Monkey has filled a quinella position at his last five runs, dating back to June last year, including a win over 1200m at the city track’s first meeting for the 2016/17 season in September. However, the four-year-old has not raced since; his promising campaign stalled in November due to near hind lameness.
“I am interested to see what he can do after such a long lay-off, he has had three barrier trials and looks ready. You can never be too confident but I am hopeful,” So said at Sha Tin trackwork on Tuesday morning (2 May).
Jockey Joao Moreira – who partnered the Pins gelding at his last three starts – is excited about the four-year-old’s prospects back to the minimum trip on Wednesday night.
“I think he’s a very good chance,” Moreira said. “He’s got gate speed, he’s got a decent gate and I couldn’t be any more confident than what I am. Fresh legs can always be a good thing, I just hope he’s not so fresh that he will do silly things in the gate. So far when I’ve been on him he’s been pretty much straightforward on the gate.
“The last couple of runs indicate that he’s got the ability to be winning. He’s hit the bar a few times and I think this time it could be his go. I believe the 1000 metres might be a better distance for him so I’m quite excited about the race.”
Zac Purton, clear second to Moreira in the premiership, maintains his association with Caspar Fownes-trained Best Step, who has finished in the top four at all three of his starts without winning.
Best Step went within a whisker, officially a short head, of breaking his maiden last time out when just finding Peter Ho’s Mr Right too strong. However, Fownes believes it was the run of a horse ready to break through for a first local victory.
“The other day was a very good run against a seasoned, hardened runner in Mr Right – that horse is a force to be reckoned with over 1000m in Class 4,” the handler said. “Off that sort of run, he will be difficult to beat here. It’s not ideal drawing 10 but he’s got a lot of toe, he’ll muster up and he will make his own luck. The other day, he sat outside the lead, we will be happy to do the same thing here and hopefully he can go one better.”
Other runners include Almond Lee’s hardy sprinter Fish N’ Chips, Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Connection, last-start winner Jimson The Famous for Dennis Yip and Ever Strong, a Savabeel three-year-old making his debut for Manfred Man.
The Class 4 Nightjar Handicap (1000m) is the fourth of eight races and will jump at 8:45pm, with the opener, the Class 4 Frigatebird Handicap (1200m), set to begin the card at 7:15pm.
Flying Monkey opens his winning account in his seasonal debut in September.
Best Step (outside) finishes a creditable second behind Mr Right at Happy Valley last start.