Igniting the spark

Sunday’s 10-race card at Sha Tin will feature the promising Pingwu Spark’s second Hong Kong start in race nine, the Class 3 Chaozhou Handicap (1200m). Benno Yung’s charge caught the eye on debut late last season and again when close-up in a potent barrier trial at the pre-season Owners’ Carnival.

The strapping grey ran on gamely despite debut greenness to finish second behind Marvel Tribe in a Class 3 at the course and distance in early June. And his most recent barrier trial, down the 1000m turf straight, saw Pingwu Spark cruise past the post in fourth. That put him just behind HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup winner Seasons Bloom and Wednesday night’s Happy Valley Class 2 scorer Convincible, with G1 Sprinters Stakes-bound Blizzard ahead of them all.

“The trial was strong and the form has worked out,” jockey Derek Leung said. “The horses that finished around him are proven Class 1 or Class 2 horses and two of them have already won this season. At that time he was still quite fat, being a big horse, so he needed that but he’s come on for it, he’s fresh and I think he will run well.

“He’s improving all the time,” he continued. “He’s a big horse, he’s about 1300 pounds and he needs space to relax and find his rhythm. I’ve drawn one so hopefully he can jump fast, get out, and travel smoothly without too many horses around him.”

Leung suggested that an unsuitable pace pattern and inexperience probably cost the Benno Yung-trained five-year-old a debut win.

“He ran well on his first start, but after they crossed him they slowed the pace and he was a bit keen,” he said. “He’s a horse with a big action, so I had to switch him out to get more room. The pace wasn’t suitable for him in that race, but he’s an honest horse, he always tries his best.

“He learned a lot from that experience and the way he feels in the morning, I think he’ll be suited by 1400 (metres) or even a mile, but I think he can handle 1200m first-up.”

Sunday’s action commences at 12.35pm with the Class 4 Maoming Handicap (1200m) and concludes with the Class 3 Dongguan Handicap (1200m) at 5.45pm. The afternoon also features two simulcast races from Korea, the Keeneland Korea Sprint (2.30pm) and the Keeneland Korea Cup (3.35pm), featuring Hong Kong contenders Lucky Year and Circuit Land, respectively.