Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Declan Schuster
Taking a less than traditional route with Fa Fa, trainer Frankie Lor believes his Happy Valley maestro is capable of reaping valuable dividends as he aims to defy history in Sunday’s (30 January) HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin.
Between the last 10 winners of the Hong Kong Classic Mile — only Rapper Dragon had experience at Happy Valley prior to winning when he finished seventh on debut, while Fa Fa — rated 88 — boasts the majority of his career and all six of his wins at the city circuit.
“Let’s see — he’s been racing at Happy Valley where he is better but I think he should be ok at Sha Tin because his form is good — he trialled last week and he trialled good,” Lor said.
Even with past experience at Sha Tin last term, easily the best of Lor’s charge has been on show at Happy Valley — a vastly contrasting racecourse to Sha Tin — known for its tight turns, short straight and unforgiving nature — conditions some horses inadvertently thrive under.
“His first three races were at Sha Tin and in his third he produced a strong finish over 1400 metres; then we went to Happy Valley and he won a few times but I don’t think Sha Tin will be a problem,” Lor said of his HK$6.41 million earner.
The New Zealand-bred boasts more wins in Hong Kong than any other of Sunday’s rivals — six from 10 starts in town; next best in the race is the 101-rated California Spangle with five wins, while Blaze Warrior, Packing Victory and Romantic Warrior all have four wins.
“He always has a strong finish and I actually don’t think the Four-Year-Old Classic Series is too strong,” Lor said.
Fa Fa made a successful leap to Class 2 — at his first attempt last start — defeating Beluga and Zebrowski — both subsequent winners with Zebrowski stepping out to claim the G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m), while Beluga despatched a number of Hong Kong Classic Mile entrants earlier this month including Ima Single Man, The Irishman, Master Delight and Rocket Spade.
In 2010, Super Satin forged a name for himself in Hong Kong with three wins at Happy Valley before switching to Sha Tin and nailing 2010 Hong Kong Derby (2000m) glory.
The three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series also includes the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 27 February and 20 March, respectively.
Lor is no stranger to success in the series with four wins thanks to Furore (2019 Hong Kong Classic Mile & 2019 BMW Hong Kong Derby), Mission Tycoon (2019 Hong Kong Classic Cup) and Healthy Happy (2021 Hong Kong Classic Cup).
This weekend, Lor also saddles Reliable Team for the HK$3.7 million G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) — hopeful of a return to form that saw him capture the G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) in November, 2021.
“He’s good — last time I think he went too quick, so that’s why he couldn’t finish off in the straight — I spoke to Derek (Leung), and he knows what to do — he’ll be on again this weekend,” Lor said.
A seven-time winner in Hong Kong — Reliable Team has banked HK$12.76 million for connections.
“He was always close at Group 3 level and when he won the Group 2 — well, I was a little bit surprised but sometimes that’s racing,” Lor said. “He’s quiet and an easy ride, so it depends on the pace of the race.”
Sunday’s (30 January) 10-race fixture at Sha Tin kicks off at 1pm with the Class 4 Tathong Channel Handicap (1200m).