Mighty Giant (135lb) makes his highly anticipated first start on dirt when he lines up in the HKD$2.9 million Class 2 Kwok Shui Handicap (1650m) as the feature race at Sha Tin on Wednesday night's (October 26) nine-race all-dirt Hong Kong programme.
Eight runners will go to post, including Kings Shield (135lb), who remains the dirt course's unofficial kingpin in Hong Kong, while Berlin Tango (129lb), All For St Paul's (123lb), Apache Pass (115lb) and So We Joy (115lb) line up as victors on the surface previously.
A seven-time winner in Hong Kong, Mighty Giant's biggest scalp came in the 2021 Group 2 Chairman's Trophy (1600m), one start after finishing third to Waikuku and Southern Legend in the 2021 Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).
Ahead of tonight's assignment, trainer Ricky Yiu believes the Power gelding will suit the dirt course under race conditions after shuttling to Conghua following his first-up fourth last month in the Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) behind California Spangle.
“He's a lovely horse and he always tries hard. I think he'll run well, I'm pretty happy,” Yiu said. “He runs for the first time on the dirt, I think he'll run well because it is a softer surface. I'm not too sure whether he'll like a wide draw on the dirt but he seems to have kept himself really well.”
Since winning at Group 2 level, Mighty Giant's rating has slipped 17 points as he readies for his first start in Class 2 since October, 2020 – which he won on turf.
“The competition is not that strong – 103 is the highest rating in the race, so it's a little bit easier for him. The way I see him when we work him at Conghua, he should run well and with the dirt there is a bit more cushion than the turf. He definitely needs it as he has gotten older – he feels it in his fetlock joints,” Yiu said.
Harry Bentley takes the reins for the first time when the pair steps away from the widest of eight barriers.
“We have a bit of a wide draw, so we're just going to have to navigate that but he's obviously a nice horse in a nice little race, we'll see how we can go,” Bentley said.
Bentley, 30, remains wary of a tactical affair as he looks to build on his four wins this term: “These races can turn out quite tactical, especially with fewer runners.”
Last season, Power led the earnings tally for sires in Hong Kong on the dirt with HKD$6.58 million from four wins, three seconds and three thirds from 21 runners. Snitzel led the wins table with five wins from 26 runners, while Deep Field and Smart Missile also had four wins apiece.
“He's (Mighty Giant) performed at the top level here, he clearly has the ability and that's going to stand him in very good stead in a Class 2. He's definitely the class horse in the race and if everything goes alright then he's going to be very competitive,” Bentley said.
Bentley's best day this term came earlier this month when the talented Brit savoured a treble at Sha Tin with two wins for Danny Shum and one for Dennis Yip.
“I'm happy enough, obviously a winner on the first day was great and then things were quiet for a little bit but then the treble I had was fantastic – that was a great day especially in some nice races as well.
“I'm relatively happy, obviously I could be riding some more winners and that would be great but that's what I'm working towards and I'm sure they'll come,” Bentley said.
Spirited Express (115lb) is yet to win in Hong Kong and will form a two-pronged assault in Wednesday's Class 2 feature for Yiu, while later on the card, the 65-year-old saddles last-start winner Jolly Ruler (125lb) in the Class 3 Tsuen Fu Handicap (1200m).
A four-year-old by Helmet, Jolly Ruler was devastating when winning last time out and remains in the same grade following that effort as he lines up for a rematch with Super Win Dragon (131lb) – who has already resumed for a win this term.
“He did his job at the end of last season. He's kept improving, he's a horse who is pretty versatile and I think he even goes good on the grass too, not just the dirt,” Yiu said.
Yung, Purton look to continue dirt dominance
Benno Yung and Zac Purton take a strong hand into Sha Tin's all-dirt fixture tonight (Wednesday, October 26) as they look to maintain a sizzling run of dominance on Hong Kong's dirt course.
Combining for a treble in tandem on the dirt earlier this month, Yung and Purton will reunite with each of those runners – Fiery Diamond, Yes We Can and Handsome Twelve – this week as each horse chases consecutive wins.
“Benno's always been a great supporter of mine, we've had a lot of luck together and he presents his horses well when I ride them and hopefully we can keep putting them in the back of the net,” Purton said.
Handsome Twelve (125lb) steps out to contest the finale tomorrow, the Class 3 Yeung Uk Handicap (1650m) and will break from gate seven under the Australian.
“He did a really good job (last start), he had to chase down a handy horse (Chancheng Prince) on the dirt and he's not easy to get past, he had a lovely run in the race and my plan was to track him through and that all worked out well,” Purton said.
The American-bred Chancheng Prince (135lb) is a solid contender on the dirt and will chase revenge after being overhauled by Handsome Twelve earlier this month.
“I really had to dig deep and fight to get past him, obviously we meet him worse at the handicap this time and his barrier is not as kind as it was last start. So he's going to need everything to go his way again, it'll come down to the tempo of the race and the run we get but he's very honest and he'll run well,” Purton said.
On Sunday afternoon (October 23), Purton guided a brave Lucky Sweynesse into second placing behind Wellington in the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin.
“You swap the barriers and it might have been a different result but he was gallant in defeat and it's just going to harder from here on now,” Purton said.
Lucky Sweynesse was overhauled late by Wellington who on Sunday, made a sparkling return to racing. The pair will meet again in next month's (November 20) Group 2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).