Hero’s back at the Valley, Millard’s Nassa bids for breakthrough

Marvel Hero showed his prowess at Happy Valley last term with a hat-trick at the city track and returns for a rare Thursday night fixture at the track with trainer Caspar Fownes hoping his charge can enhance that record.

“He’s back to his good track,” the handler said. “He had three starts for three wins at the Valley last year and we’ll be making use of the claim this time.”

With Marvel Hero (gate 10) allotted top-weight of 133lb in the evening’s finale, Fownes has turned to Hong Kong’s top apprentice, Matthew Poon, to lighten the burden. The seven-pound claimer has seven wins on the board already this term and sits fourth in the premiership.

“Matthew’s allowance brings him in there carrying 126 (pounds). Hopefully the kid gives him a nice ride,” Fownes said.

Marvel Hero limbered up with a fair effort first time out this season when sixth of eight behind Jolly Banner in the Class 1 Kwangtung Handicap Cup (1400m) at Sha Tin last month. The Lord Shanakill five-year-old returns to the course and distance of his most recent win, achieved in March.

“It was a good run last time,” Fownes said. “I gave him a piece of work Monday on the grass, he sat in behind and worked up alright. It’s just a case of going to that track and hoping he can bring it again.”

Marvel Hero, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

But the man with 405 wins on the board at Happy Valley believes one of Marvel Hero’s 11 rivals in particular might be hard to beat.

“I’d be worried about Tony Millard’s horse, Nassa - he looks to be a very progressive horse,” he added.

Nassa (115lb, gate 2) heads into his first start at the Valley without a win in three Hong Kong starts. But the South African import, third in the December, 2015 G1 Cape Guineas (1600m), has faced strong opposition in each of those Class 2 contests, holding his own against the likes of Booming Delight and Seasons Bloom.

“Nassa’s going nicely,” Millard said. “We didn’t have an easy run-in last season and I think he’s improved. I think he’ll run a nice race.”

Joao Moreira takes the ride, having partnered the Dynasty five-year-old in a morning gallop and two barrier trials in recent weeks. The bay impressed in his latest trial, passing the post ahead of the rest over 1200m on Sha Tin’s dirt track. Nassa trialled without any issues at Happy Valley (1700m) on 9 September.

“I’ve had to take my time with him, he’s still a colt and he takes a lot of work.” Millard said. “He’s come through his preparation well - we just need a bit of luck.”

The competitive contest also features last season’s Hong Kong Airlines Million Challenge winner Packing Dragon (128lb), as well as that game gelding’s fellow course and distance scorers Dinozzo (118lb) and the G3 winner Supreme Profit (123lb). At the foot of the handicap is the smart Super Chic (113lb), winner of the G2 Derby Italiano (2200m) pre-import.