HONG Kong’s Happy Valley will be buzzing this afternoon thanks to the return of three-time British champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa to the inner-city track.
Despite a brief appearance in the International Jockeys’ Challenge at the Valley last December, De Sousa missed last season’s Hong Kong action due to family commitments.
His previous two short stints in the racing-focused city saw him notch up 16 winners in both the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons.
De Sousa built up a huge cult following during those previous stays, with the gambling-mad locals, market traders and taxi drivers falling in love with his determination and will to win on anything he rode.
Regular racegoers in the UK are used to seeing De Sousa travel all over the country in his quest to ride winners and he rode 148 of them this season.
However, what the locals love is his desperation to lift horses over the winning line.
With reigning champ Zac Purton out of sorts with the betting public at present, there is a chance for De Sousa to become the number one pin-up boy in the city.
It’s fair to say that not everything has gone according to plan with Purton this season.
The 35-year-old Australian pilot may be leading the jockeys’ title race, but he has ridden more seconds (25) than winners (24) and there are mutterings of discontent from the betting public.
Of course, this can all change in a twinkling of an eye. Purton only needs to record a quick-fire double or treble, and then he will be the greatest jockey in the world again.
However, at present, De Sousa has a chance to stamp himself as the city’s go-to rider.
The Brazilian only landed in Hong Kong at the end of last week, but was already booked for nine rides at Sha Tin on Sunday.
He got the ball rolling with a last-gasp win on a former 30-start maiden, and now finds himself with a full book of rides at Happy Valley this afternoon.
The gods of fortune haven’t made it easy for him, with five of his rides emerging from double-figure draws, while the other three are drawn no lower than six.
His most interesting mount is LUCKY SHINY DAY who lines-up in the 12.15pm over the extended mile. This lightly-raced four-year-old has been saddled with the outside draw, but produced an unbelievable burst of acceleration down the home stretch last time, having been a tail-ender around the final bend, to only be pipped by a nose.
His closing 400m sectional time of under 23secs was the equivalent of a higher-grade performer.
If he is around three to four lengths off the leaders turning into the home straight, leave the rest to De Sousa.
It’s significant that champion trainer John Size has snapped up De Sousa to ride the improving TOM’S DRAGON in the 12.45pm over six furlongs.
This son of Hinchinbrook has been given a typically patient preparation by his trainer but looks ready to peak and should go close to winning.
Other De Sousa contenders to keep an eye on include a former William Haggas-trained Group horse, Lockheed, in the six-furlong sprint at 2.15pm. He has place prospects.
Lucky Shiny Day 12.15pm Happy Valley
Tom’s Dragon e/w 12.45pm Happy Valley