Hong Kong Preview: Gallant Waking ready for step up in distance
#3 Gallant Waking can handle a quarter-mile step up in distance to win the Sand Martin Handicap at Happy Valley on Wednesday.
The Pride of Dubai four-year-old has been in excellent form of late, winning at Happy Valley Sept. 28 and Oct. 19 before rattling home to take second to Gold Marquis back at Happy Valley Nov. 16.
All three of those efforts were over 1,200 meters (about six furlongs), and here he is being asked to step up to 1,650 meters (about 1 mile, 40 yards). But he races like a horse that will appreciate a longer trip and if he can settle on a slower pace for Vincent Ho, he should be charging hard at the leaders in the stretch.
Gallant Waking’s effort could well determine whether he is a contender for Hong Kong’s 4-year-old series, which starts with the Hong Kong Classic Mile on Jan. 30 and climaxes with the Hong Kong Derby over about 1 1/4 miles on March 20.
One of Gallant Waking’s main opponents this week could also have the 4-year-old series on his radar, and, in fact, already has a Classic success on his resume. When known as Orfeu Negro, #5 Dynamic Spirit won twice at Grade 1 level in his Brazilian homeland, the second of which was the one-mile Ipiranga, the first leg of the Sao Paulo Triple Crown.
Dynamic Spirit has raced four times in Hong Kong, where he has mostly been plagued by bad barrier draws. He finished strongly for fourth two starts back over about six furlongs at Happy Valley, and last start made up some ground to finish seventh, three lengths from the winner.
This time, Dynamic Spirit has Zac Purton aboard. If he’s able to get a more forward position from the start, he could be a factor.
Two last-start winners that could challenge again here are #4 Good Buddy and #6 Gallant Crown. Good Buddy scored comfortably at Sha Tin Nov. 20 for Hugh Bowman, who rides him again here, while Gallant Crown hasn’t been seen since winning on Sept. 11. Both have decent barrier draws.
Two four-year-old first-time starters in Hong Kong that will be interesting are #1 Can’t Go Wong and #10 Publicist. Can’t Go Wong was Group 2-placed in Australia over about 1 1/4 miles, while Publicist was twice a winner in New South Wales. The market will probably be the best guide to their chances.
#7 Prince Alex, #9 Encountered, and #11 Pegasus General are other options for exotics.
Bonus Play – New Zealand
Ashburton, Wednesday, Dec. 14, ET, Race 8, Agraforum Growing Innovation Hcp
- $10 win/$30 show, #1 Phelan The Power: Third at Group 3 level two starts back and may not have been suited by four-day backup at his next start. Can bounce back here.