In the midst of a resurgent season, Matthew Chadwick hopes the combination of potentially rain-affected ground and Douglas Whyte's finesse will allow Savvy Nine to contend strongly in the HKD$3.7 million Group 3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (May 29).
Chadwick has posted 44 wins this season and, with 14 meetings left to run, could mathematically reach or better the 57 victories he slotted in 2012/13 after reaching a career total of 450 wins in Hong Kong with Circuit Nine's success last Sunday (May 22).
The former champion apprentice believes Savvy Nine is poised to rebound after a last-start 10th, having chased home stablemate Russian Emperor in the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) – when the former UK galloper edged Hong Kong champion Golden Sixty into third place on yielding ground on 20 February.
“He's got a decent weight to carry (130lb) on Sunday, he's been running well all season – last time he ran was a bit off (when 10th behind Romantic Warrior in the Group 1 FWD QEII Cup, 2000m at Sha Tin on April 24), but he didn't have the smoothest of runs with a slow pace.
“He's come back a bit more fresh now. Let's see what the weather is like. He ran second to Russian Emperor in the Group 1 and that was over a bit further, but it was on a wet track.
“The mile is a bit on the short side for him but I would assume Douglas has freshened him up and has him well and so if he brings back what he's been running previously, he should show what he's got. Hopefully he can win.”
Placed in six of 10 starts this season, Savvy Nine faces eight rivals at the weekend – Mighty Giant (133lb), Champion's Way (130lb), Excellent Proposal (128lb), Healthy Happy (128lb), Beauty Joy (121lb), Cheerful Days (121lb), Silver Express (118lb) and My Sugar (114lb).
Chadwick, 31, also partners Chris So's Enjoying in the Class 2 Hung Mui Kuk Handicap (2000m), hopeful of extending his lead over Vincent Ho (39 wins) in the race for the Tony Cruz Award for the best-performed home-grown rider.
“He's pretty much one-paced, he's happy where he's comfortable and as long as he keeps striding out, he'll be hitting the line reasonably well.”
After missing a large chunk of the season, Fantastic Treasure resumes in the Class 2 Amah Rock Handicap (1200m) for David Hayes and Blake Shinn.
“He had a long lay-off and missed the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, which was a shame because he looked like he would have been a contender, but he's going to arrive on Sunday a much bigger, more developed horse,” Hayes said. “He's quite a beast now.
“I'm really happy with the way he's improved. He's won his trials without trying to win the trials – just trying to use them for fitness – and whatever he does from barrier 11, he'll be improved but it wouldn't surprise me if he could win first-up, either.”
Depending on how he fares on Sunday, the 97-rater could be aimed at the Group 3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) on June 19 at Sha Tin.
“If he runs well on Sunday, certainly, he might run in that (Premier Cup) and then on the final day (July 16) of the season, he could run in the Trophy race (Class 1 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy, 1600m) because he's had the whole season off and he can let us know whether he would be better kept to sprinting or going out to a mile races next season.”
Fresh from his maiden Happy Valley victory on Wednesday (May 25), Luke Currie hopes to continue his good form aboard Amazing Teens for John Size in the Class 3 Piper's Hill Handicap (1800m, dirt).
“He won well last start after being drawn awkwardly (barrier 14), it was a good effort,” Currie said. “He enjoyed being on the dirt last time and, off the back of a confidence-boosting win, it puts him in with a great chance.”