Millard two-handed as he seeks Ladies’ Purse hat-trick
Tony Millard has made the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) his own in recent years, and the South African handler has high hopes of making it three wins in a row in the Group 3 feature on Sunday.
Millard has won Hong Kong’s oldest race three times in total, including the last two, saluting with Iron Fist in 2009, Top Act in 2015 and Horse Of Fortune last year.
“It’s been a good race to us, but I’m not focused on that,” the trainer said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (31 October). “I’m just trying to make sure my horses are going to run well, just doing my job. I think that I have two good chances this year.”
Millard is represented once again by Horse Of Fortune, with the defending champion joined by another South African import in Nassa.
Horse Of Fortune landed his first stakes win in this race last year, carrying 120 pounds to an upset win over subsequent dual G1 winner Helene Paragon. The Stronghold seven-year-old then added the G3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) to his record in June, and is set to line up with 131 pounds for this year’s Ladies’ Purse.
“His first run of the season was a very good run, he had to carry top-weight over a distance short of his best,” Millard said. “We’ve long earmarked this race for him, and we’ve tried to keep him fresh – not just for this race, but for what comes next as well.”
Karis Teetan steers Horse Of Fortune to an impressive victory in the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap last year, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Last week, Horse Of Fortune featured in entries for the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races. The bay is likely to head to the Mile this year rather than stretching out to the 2000 metres of the Cup, in which he finished sixth last year, but Millard said a decision on his future plans would be made after Sunday’s handicap.
“First and foremost, the plan is this race,” he said. “This has always been the target. It’s going to be a hard task for him this time obviously with the weight, but he’s done very well and we’re very happy with him.”
Leading local rider Derek Leung, who has already won two of the four stakes races in Hong Kong so far this season, will be aboard Horse Of Fortune.
Nassa, meanwhile, arrived from South Africa with a hefty reputation, having finished third in the 2015 G1 Cape Guineas (1600m). His Hong Kong career, however, has been hampered by bad luck and numerous niggles that have restricted him to four starts, the latest a five and a quarter length ninth over the Happy Valley 1800m on 5 October.
“It was a disappointing run on the surface of it, but he came out of it well so we just have to put it behind us,” Millard said. “I think he’s a progressive horse but we now need to see it. He’s done everything right since though so we are hoping for a top run.”
“We’re still finding out about him because, even though he’s been here a year, he’s relatively untouched, so we are still finding our way with him a bit. It hasn’t been easy with him but these are the things that horses have to go through when they acclimatise to Hong Kong, they have to adapt and it can take time.”
Nassa is the lowest-rated of 14 entries for the Ladies’ Purse with a mark of 87. He will carry the base limit of 113 pounds, a full 10 pounds out of the handicap, with Chad Schofield taking the reins.
Also entered in the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse are Tony Cruz-trained quintet Time Warp (123lb), Romantic Touch (122lb), Doyeni (113lb), General Sherman (113lb) and Consort (113lb), while John Moore is set to send out Eagle Way (128lb), Harbour Master (120lb), Helene Charisma (119lb) and Rocketeer (113lb).
Caspar Fownes and Almond Lee are planning to saddle up Marvel Hero (118lb) and Keen Venture (113lb) respectively, while Danny Shum’s Circuit Land (133lb) is entered to have his first run since finishing ninth in the Korea Cup in Seoul last month.
The G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap was first run in 1846, making it Hong Kong’s oldest active race on the calendar.