Master Albert to relish ideal draw, says So
Trainer Chris So believes a good gate will make all the difference for Master Albert at his Happy Valley debut, with the chestnut seeking his first Hong Kong win at start four in the second section of the Class 3 Queen’s Road Central Handicap (1200m) on Wednesday night.
So admitted to a case of pre-draw nerves with Master Albert given the four-year-old’s penchant for drawing a wide berth in his Hong Kong career to date – so much so, he relied on assistant trainer Ricky Chung to pass on the news that the gelding had drawn gate three.
“I was too scared to look,” So said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (17 October). “He just kept drawing out and I didn’t want to see another bad barrier at Happy Valley. I had Ricky refreshing the page, and then he yelled out ‘saam’ – three – and it was like I had won the lottery, I was so excited. That was a first victory in itself.”
Master Albert has had three starts over the Sha Tin 1200m, starting favourite on each occasion. He drew gate 10 on debut in June, finishing third to Perpetual Joyance, before twice starting from gate 13 – once in July, once in September. On both occasions, he finished fourth.
Master Albert makes his Happy Valley debut after three Sha Tin starts, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
“He’s been running well, he’s had a lot to do from those gates,” So said. “He should be able to settle a little closer from the good gate and hopefully we can see the horse we believe him to be.”
Australian import Master Albert is raced by the Master Syndicate, who features among its members Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Dr Simon Ip, and So said it was a collective decision to give the Magic Albert gelding his first test at the city track.
“I spoke to the owners, especially to the chairman Dr Ip, and we agreed to bring the horse to Happy Valley,” the trainer said. “All I kept saying to them was, if we get a good draw, we’ll have a chance. Thankfully, it has paid off. I was happy with his trial here recently so I think this is definitely his best chance yet.”
Joao Moreira retains the ride aboard Master Albert, having been in the saddle for all of his starts to date.
Where the barrier draw was kind to some, it was less so to others – including last-start winner Best Step, who will jump from gate 11.
“Last time out, he drew the inside, he had a pretty easy lead and he only just fell in,” jockey Zac Purton said. “This time, on the C course, he has to jump from near the outside, there looks to be some speed and he’s up in weight. It’s going to be a lot tougher this time around.”
The second section of the Queen’s Road Central Handicap is scheduled as the sixth of eight races and is set to jump at 9.45pm, with the opener, the Class 5 Bank Street Handicap (1200m), set for 7.15pm.