Street Scream, Excellent Peers remain in DBS x Manulife Million Challenge contention
By Declan Schuster
Street Scream and Excellent Peers line up in the Class 3 Sing Woo Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley tomorrow night (Wednesday, 8 February) chasing a vital 15 points and the outright lead over Nearly Fine in the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge.
The DBS x Manulife Million Challenge comes to a close this Wednesday after kicking off on 14 September last year, while victory for either Street Scream (45 points) or Excellent Peers (42) will see them leapfrog Nearly Fine (53) into first position ahead of Yo Beauty (42), Comet Splendido (39) and California Deeply (36).
The competition is for horses racing in Class 3 and above, with 15 points awarded for first, six for second, four for third and three for fourth place. Either Street Scream or Excellent Peers must win if one of them is to overhaul Nearly Fine – who also runs tomorrow night – for the HK$650,000 first prize.
Street Scream returns with 135lb assigned as the race’s top-rated horse. He was desperately unlucky over the concluding stages in a Class 2 1000m contest last month after giving away a sizeable head start. Vincent Ho rides again from gate three.
“When I entered the straight there was a huge gap until the last 100 or 200 metres, then everyone just came together and jammed up.
“But he is very well, he’s probably just a bit lazy – he thinks too much. He’s a funny horse, if he picked up a little bit earlier (last start) it would have been ideal. He’s a good chance,” Ho said.
Street Scream is a three-time winner this season for Tony Cruz, each time in Class 3 over tomorrow night’s course and distance.
“I’ll do my best to get the bonus – hopefully we can make it happen,” Ho said.
Excellent Peers will reunite with Matthew Chadwick for Frankie Lor, assigned 131lb and barrier four. Chadwick returns from injury with four rides including the mount on the two-time winning California Deeply in the Class 3 King Kwong Handicap (1000m).
Caspar Fownes is hoping Nearly Fine (120lb) adds a fourth Happy Valley win in the Class 1 Shan Kwong Handicap (1650m) later on the card, which will see the grey retain first position in the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge – regardless of how either Street Scream or Excellent Peers performs.
Silvestre de Sousa will ride the five-year-old and the duo will step away from gate one.
“We have a good barrier and Happy Valley is all about the start (of races). We’re carrying a light weight and I hope he can be competitive,” De Sousa said.
Packing Award (127lb) also lines up in the Shan Kwong Handicap after a last-start second to Money Catcher in the G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) last month. Zac Purton will reunite with the Peter Ho-trained charge.
“I thought it was a good effort. He had no weight last time, so he has to carry some weight this time but he should get his chance – I won his first race on him,” Purton said.
Packing Award is a six-time winner in Hong Kong with five of these coming at Happy Valley across his 16-start career.
“It’s a suitable race for him, I think he just needs to get the right run. He relaxes a bit better there (at Happy Valley) because at Sha Tin he used to buzz himself up and the tempo of the races didn’t quite suit him whereas at Happy Valley you’re hitting extra turns and there’s a bit more going on and he just seems to relax a bit better – he’s certainly found his best form there,” Purton said.
Wednesday’s (8 February) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.45pm with the Class 5 Yuk Sau Handicap (1650m).