Hong Kong's big three riders are all in action at Happy Valley this Wednesday.
Joao Moreira and Karis Teetan will be keen to resume normal service after serving two-meeting suspensions, while Zac Purton will be well aware that he failed to take full advantage of having his main rivals out of the picture.
Moreira's impressive strike rate for Caspar Fownes will be one of the key themes on show and all the action from an eight-race card will be live on Sky Sports Racing from 12.15.
Every winner counts if you want to be champion trainer in HK and Caspar Fownes clearly senses an opening this season judged by the way he roared Nunchuks home at the end of a lowly Class 5 at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Six years have passed since Fownes landed his third title but he lies half a dozen clear atop the table after 14 wins from 74 runners over the first eleven meetings. "Group 1 or Class 5, I'm passionate about everything," he said. "I wear my heart on my sleeve and try hard for my owners as I own horses overseas and it's not much fun if you're paying out every month and they're not performing."
Fownes has made hay when linking up with Moreira this term - with eight winners from just 18 runners - and the fact that the Magic Man rides five of his six Wednesday runners won't be lost on punters.
The draw hasn't been kind to a couple but stall 5 is fine for Green Luck in a strong finale at 3.50. This Street Cry gelding has four course and distance wins to his credit and is two from three with Moreira aboard. A bold effort looks highly likely in what should be a well-run race, while Not Usual Talent is another proven Valley force with strong credentials after his fine Sha Tin second to the ever-improving Mighty Giant.
Purton's presence aboard horses trained by Dennis Yip is another of HK's most profitable partnerships and some important factors have fallen in favour of Hercules ahead of Wednesday's 2.15.
This doesn't look a strong Class 4, with two possible threats drawn 11 and 12, and Hercules is the standout form contender after bolting up over course and distance with Purton and blinkers for the first time. A 9lb hike won't stop him going very close again from stall 3, while Telecom Rocket is equally well drawn in 2 and also holds solid claims after meeting traffic last time.
This Sunday at Sha Tin is shaping up to be a very significant day for a number of HK's elite, with Golden Sixty and Beauty Generation squaring off for a second time in the Sha Tin Trophy and Hot King Prawn bidding to give plenty of weight to some smart sprinters in the Premier Bowl.
Golden Sixty's trainer Francis Lui is ticking along nicely in joint second place on the premiership ladder with eight winners but Beauty Generation's new handler David Hayes could do with a winner ahead of Sunday's big rematch. Hayes scored with two of his first three runners on his first day back as a HK handler early last month but is 0-36 since. The Aussie has four chances to right the ship at the Valley on Wednesday with Fearless Fire in the 1.15 as perhaps the best chance of a middling bunch.
So much for the theory that smaller fields leads to reduced betting interest. It's a long time since Sha Tin had four single-figure fields on one card yet total turnover for Sunday’s card weighed in at almost £160m - more than 8% higher than for the same fixture in 2019.