Connections thought enough of C P Brave to throw in a couple of entries for last month’s Hong Kong International Races and while the five-year-old hasn’t reached those lofty heights just yet, he can take another step towards having ambition meet ability at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
The Tony Millard-trained gelding has raced well since arriving in Hong Kong from Britain, where he won two of his four starts when known as Piranesi under the care of William Haggas, but is yet to fulfil his potential.
C P Brave placed in two of his three starts last season as he acclimatised to life in his new home, before flashing his ability with an impressive first-up victory over a mile in September.
The son of Zoffany stepped up to 1,800m for each of his subsequent two assignments but, despite not being beaten far, he couldn’t finish among the placings as the likes of Zebrowski and Celestial Power got the better of him.
Those efforts obviously weren’t enough to justify a start at HKIR, so Millard backed off and freshened him up to launch an assault on the new year, which begins in the Class Two Lantau Island Handicap (1,650m).
C P Brave has trialled twice to tune up for this contest, blowing out the cobwebs behind stand-out sprinters Courier Wonder and Sky Field.
Superstar jockey Joao Moreira was aboard for the first three runs of the campaign but the Magic Man will be in an opposing camp this time around, partnering the John Size-prepared Savaquin, and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu jumps in the hot-seat.
The leading local rider has his work cut out after C P Brave was handed the outside alley of 10 from the tricky 1,650m start at the city circuit.
Making his task even harder is the fact it looks a very competitive race with consistent performers Telecom Fighters and Sunny Star at the top of the weights and progressive types like Beauty Joy and Rocket Spade adding some intrigue.
After struggling in two runs last season, the Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Joy has come back a different horse with a win and a second from his two runs this campaign and Zac Purton takes the ride as he navigates Happy Valley for the first time.
The son of Sebring, who was undefeated in four Australian runs when known as Talladega, should get every opportunity after drawing perfectly in barrier four.
Caspar Fownes’ Rocket Spade, who won the New Zealand Derby last year, is on a path towards the Classic Series but just when he enters the frame could depend on how he performs in this event.
His rating of 81 puts him right on the borderline of getting a start in the Classic Mile on Sunday week but given he won a Group One over 2,400m, the reigning champion trainer might be focused on earning some points with a view to the Classic Cup (1,800m) and March’s Hong Kong Derby (2,000m).
Of the others, Savaquin’s recent form is better than it reads – he has a pair of eighths next to his name but he wasn’t far away in either of them, while Me Tsui Yu-sak’s Tsar has a win and a second from his only two starts over this course and distance and has to be respected.
Frankie Lor’s consistent six-year-old Solar Wai Wai, the Cruz-trained Sunshine Warrior and Bear Again, who is having his first start for David Hall after the departure of David Ferraris, round out the field.