The Ricky Yiu-trained Alcari won comfortably his debut in October.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Andrew Hawkins
Jockey Karis Teetan believes that emerging three-year-old Alcari has what it takes to join the likes of Pakistan Star and Luger on the honour roll for the Griffin Trophy (1400m) when he contests the year-end feature on Saturday (23 December).
Ricky Yiu-trained Alcari created a big impression on debut, winning comfortably over the straight 1000m in October. However, circumstances were against the son of All Too Hard second-up in November when runner-up over 1200m behind Amazing Star, while a wide gate proved too difficult to overcome last start, finishing fifth over 1400m at his first attempt in Class 3.
“It was a big effort last time,” Teetan said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (22 December). “I was out so Umberto rode him, and it looked like he was a bit green in the straight, but he still ran very well I thought. He didn’t have much of an option, with the wide gate and a light weight he had to go forward, and he wasn’t beaten too far.
“Now, he heads back to his own age group so I think he should be suited here. He doesn’t have to lead, there looks to be some speedy horses on my inside so I’ll just wait and see how it pans out. He trialled well recently and he’s come through the last run well so I’m hopeful that he’ll run a big race on Saturday.”
Alcari (122lb) comes through different formlines to the majority of the nine-horse field for the Griffin Trophy, which will be run as the third event on Saturday’s card. In fact, seven of Alcari’s eight rivals contested a restricted event over 1400m on 3 December, with Michael Freedman-trained Sparkling Dragon (125lb) seeing off Paul O’Sullivan’s Win Beauty Win (122lb) by a head.
“This assignment, on paper, is easier for Sparkling Dragon than what he had to do last time,” jockey Sam Clipperton said. “It’s a similar field but last time he had to carry 133lb, it was his first time at 1400m and he had to go for home pretty early so it was a solid effort. He drops back to 125lb, he has another good draw and his work has been spot on, he certainly hasn’t taken a backwards step from his last run.
“It isn’t easy to go two for two in Hong Kong, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t perform well again.”
Clipperton out to make most of Size opportunity
For Clipperton, his eight-ride book at Sha Tin on Saturday represents his best group of rides for the season to date. In addition to Sparkling Dragon, he also has five rides for John Size, with the nine-time champion trainer turning to Clipperton in the absence of Joao Moreira.
“It’s always great to get rides off John Size, any rides, and I’m excited for the hand I have,” Clipperton said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity. He’s a champion trainer and you go to the races full of confidence that the horses are going to be well-prepared and spot on for the day.
“I haven’t had the best rides this season, certainly not collectively, but I’ve got a good book on the weekend so we go there with hope that we might get into the winners’ circle. It’s never a given though, but I’ll be trying my hardest.”
Among Clipperton’s rides for Size are last-start winner Infinity Endeavour in the Class 3 Luk Wu Handicap (1200m), Dinozzo in the Class 2 Long Ke Handicap (2000m) and Calculation in the closer, the Class 3 Pak Tam Au Handicap (1400m).
“Calculation is in very good form and he looks to be knocking on the door,” the Australian jockey said. “The penny seems to have dropped with him, I know he won last season but he’s taken a little while to come to hand this time in. His last two runs have been very good and, hopefully, an indication of what’s to come.”
Calculation’s owner Hui Sai Fun, who had his first winner in 1957, will create history the next time one of his horses finds the winners’ circle, as he will become the first Hong Kong owner to have 100 wins next to his name. The nonagenarian is also represented by Volitation, now trained by Frankie Lor, in the Class 3 Pak Tam Chung Handicap (1650m) on dirt, with Clipperton also in the saddle.
“His first-up run was very good, and he’ll improve from that obviously,” the Australian jockey said of the Shocking five-year-old, who debuts on the Sha Tin all-weather track. “His recent trial on the dirt was terrific, he’s trialled well on the surface in the past and he’s given every indication that he should handle it come raceday. He also seems to be a horse better suited fresh, so I think he’ll perform well.
“Both of Mr Hui’s horses look to be chances, and he’s obviously been such an important owner throughout Hong Kong history. It really is an amazing record.”
Size to serve up Christmas cheer with Hot King Prawn
In Australia, Christmas is celebrated in the summer and is generally marked by searing temperatures and seafood platters. And while Australian trainer John Size was rugged up at Sha Tin on Friday morning, looking more ready for a white Christmas, he will be looking to serve up some seafood of his own on Saturday when he sends out unbeaten galloper Hot King Prawn in the Class 2 Chek Keng Handicap (1000m).
It is rare for the nine-time champion trainer, famous for his patience, to send out a three-year-old in Class 2, particularly this early in the season. However, Size believed Hot King Prawn had earned his shot at the grade after an effortless win over the straight 1000m last time out.
“Class 2 is pretty strong, they can all run and there’s no place to hide,” Size said, “but the race is on and the time suits him, so he can try this one and then he can have a break after that. I think you could expect him to run well and go close to winning the race.
“He seems to be improving every time he goes to the races, which he has to do to keep winning. He’s making those steps pretty well. He’s progressing a little too quickly but that’s the system and I hope he’s up to it.”
The pre-Christmas card kicks off with the Class 4 Wong Shek Handicap (2000m) at 5am on Saturday morning and concludes with the Class 3 Pak Tam Au Handicap (1400m) at 9.45am.