Classic Emperor exercises at Meydan racecourse
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
By David Morgan
Classic Emperor appeared to be in fine heart during routine exercise this morning ahead of his pivotal assignment in the G3 Burj Nahaar (1600m, dirt) at Meydan racecourse’s Super Saturday meeting in two days’ time (10 March).
The six-year-old’s trainer Chris So was somewhere between an Airbus A330 and Dubai customs a little after 7am when, a couple of miles away, his charge’s hooded head was spotted at the entrance to the dirt track. An eager, six-step jig followed by a relaxed lap at nothing more taxing than a loping canter under work rider Robo Wong seemed to indicate that Classic Emperor is tuned for race-night.
Watching groom Li Yin
When So arrived at Meydan an hour or so later, his horse was already back in his box. Whatsapp messages had been exchanged between trainer and staff and videos viewed. That has been the routine every day since Classic Emperor landed in the emirate four weeks ago, the aim being a berth in the Godolphin Mile at the glamour-fuelled Dubai World Cup fixture on 31 March.
To seal a place in that Group 2 contest, there can be no repeat of the stumbling, dream-foiling non-event that was Classic Emperor’s first ‘race’ on the Meydan dirt.
“That was very disappointing, a lot of people put in work for us to be here,” So said, recalling Classic Emperor’s stumble from the starting gate that pitched jockey Derek Leung down into the sandy track. “But we always told the owner that we had two options - we picked the small field and it didn’t work, so now we’re taking the second option.”
So is holding on to the old adage about lightning not striking twice, as well as the past case of the Godolphin galloper Marking. That colt unseated James Doyle in similar circumstances in the 2016 Al Shindagha Sprint, bounced back to win a Meydan handicap next time and was then fourth in the Godolphin Mile.
Classic Emperor has had some practice through the starting stalls since his misstep.
“He jumped out of the gates on 1 March and he jumped well. I watched the video and the boys said everything was fine,” So said.
The bay had dipped at the break in races before his Meydan mishap. He stumbled slightly on his first start this season, a race on turf at Happy Valley in which he went on to finish second. He was clumsy again two starts later when a first-time winner on the Sha Tin dirt. So believes Classic Emperor’s eagerness to get out and race might be the reason.
“He’s always jumped fast and I even told (jockey) Keith Yeung to watch out for him when he did it at Sha Tin on the dirt, the horse just wants to get going. Maybe he tries to rush, he’s eager, and just dips down; but also I think the deeper track here caught the horse by surprise, he couldn’t get his feet up once he’d stumbled.
“But everything’s gone well with his training, my staff are very happy with the horse, he’s settled here and now we just need some luck!”
Oisin Murphy will take the reins for the first time on Saturday. Classic Emperor has drawn gate seven in the field of 14.