Hong Kong Jockey Club
Big Party shaped like a potential top-liner when ascending the ranks last season and will get his chance to prove his merit in Group class when he takes his place in Sunday’s (29 December) G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m).
The grey heads into the straight track dash off a powerful victory at Happy Valley a week and a half ago – his fourth win and eighth career start. But that was at 1200m and trainer Frankie Lor is hoping the shape of this weekend’s race will suit his charge as he returns to the minimum trip for the first time since a career debut fifth.
“If he gets cover, the 1000 metres should not be a problem for him. He needs to get some cover behind some horses, that’s better for him,” the handler said at Sha Tin this morning (Friday, 27 December).
“First-up last season, over 1000 metres, he had no cover and finished fifth and we saw it again first start this season (over 1200m), he jumped fast and had no cover all the way – it was only the last 50 metres he started to slow down. Last time, I asked Joao (Moreira) to try to get some cover and he was able to do it.”
Moreira sticks with the four-year-old, who will carry bottom-weight of 118lb. The field of seven also includes top-weight Regency Legend (132lb) and the John Moore-trained talent Thanks Forever (125lb), a three-time course and distance winner and the mount of Silvestre de Sousa.
Lor knows his charge faces no easy task despite the small field size.
“We’ll try but the race also has Thanks Forever and he’s quite strong, so we’ll see,” he said.
Champion jockey Zac Purton scored an impressive win on Big Party in Class 3 last May but will be in opposition aboard Regency Legend, successful in his first four starts but disappointing in his latest two, latterly when last of 12 in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
The Danny Shum-trained four-year-old steps down to 1000m for the first time.
“It’s an interesting change in direction,” Purton said. “He did trial over 1000 metres at the start of the season and I thought his trial was quite good.
“It’s not a strong race for a Group race, there’s not a lot of depth in it, so he gets his chance to try and show us something if he can but he’s obviously been very disappointing at his last couple of starts. Hopefully this can bring a little bit of bounce back into him.”
Shum will fit a new piece of equipment in an attempt to help his charge cope with the sharper tempo.
“The 1000 metres might be a little bit sharp for him so I hope the first time blinkers will help him to get a good spot and hit the line strongly,” the trainer said, adding, “he’s well, there was nothing wrong after his last run, he was just a bit disappointing.
Purton said: “He’s got the blinkers on for this race and I hope it will be positive. He’s always been a very nervous horse, he has himself quite wound up, so whether or not the blinkers will have a big effect on him, we’ll have to wait and see how he responds on race day.”
<b>Elusive returns to dirt</b>
The afternoon’s 10-race card also features a competitive Class 2 on the all-weather track, the Chek Keng Handicap (1650m), in which Elusive State will return to the fray after running last of seven in the G2 Jockey Club Mile (1600m) in November.
De Sousa retains the ride on the Tony Millard-trained galloper.
“He had a nice trial and he’s back on the dirt, which is his favourite surface,” the Brazilian ace said. “He carries top-weight but we hope for a good draw and a good run around. He feels like he’s in good health so I think he’ll run well.
“They were probably just too good for him last time, he had every opportunity but he just wasn’t good enough on that day.”
The field of 13 also includes the Me Tsui-trained Ugly Warrior (125lb) and Glorious Artist (120lb) from the Lor stable: both horses raced in Korea’s international races back in September and have yet to hit their straps back on home ground.
“Glorious Artist has been a little bit disappointing since Korea but I expect he should run better this time,” Lor said. “The 1650m is a little bit short though, 1800 should be much better.”
Also in the race are the potential Derby contenders, Playa Del Puente (119lb) and Buddies (116lb).
Sunday’s action also includes the Griffin Trophy, which has attracted a field of eight, including the Peter Ho-trained Rich And Lucky and the Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Quality.
<b>Stars on trial</b>
Friday morning at Sha Tin brought barrier trial action with several of Hong Kong’s stars stretching out to advance their preparations for assignments early in the New Year.
The John Size-trained big gun sprinters Beat The Clock, Hot King Prawn, Full Of Beauty and D B Pin, and his LONGINES Hong Kong Mile runner-up Waikuku, all moved smoothly through their hit-outs.
Lor, meanwhile, was pleased with Mr Stunning who moved well through an eye-catching trial, having returned from injury to finish a close fourth to Beat The Clock in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint earlier this month.
“He’s had two races and now were looking to the 19th of January (G1 Centenary Sprint Cup) – his trial was good so we’ll give him one more trial into that race,” the trainer said.
Champion Stayer Exultant cruised around a leisurely last in the same 1200m trial as Beat The Clock.