Korea success for Circuit Land and Lucky Year could open up more international doors for Shum

Trainer Danny Shum has never been one to shy away from an overseas journey, but he says his first sojourn to Korea could prove a “stepping stone” to more international campaigns this season as Circuit Land (Keeneland Korea Cup) and Lucky Year (Keeneland Korea Sprint) gear up for their respective assignments at Seoul’s LetsRun Park on Sunday.

Shum was closely involved in the first successful Hong Kong raid abroad, as assistant trainer to Ivan Allan when Fairy King Prawn won the 2000 Yasuda Kinen in Japan. Most notably, in his own name, he holds one distinction that no other current Hong Kong trainer can match: he is a Royal Ascot-winning handler, having taken Little Bridge to the five-furlong G1 King’s Stand Stakes in 2012, where the gelding beat the best speedsters from around the world.

“That was a great day, a great moment and hopefully it is something we can achieve again on Sunday, winning a big race overseas,” Shum said at Seoul Racecourse on Friday morning (8 September). “And maybe it could lead us further – I’d be looking at Dubai as an option for both horses if they run well on Sunday. This is a stepping stone to races over there, if they handle it then I think they would be suited.”

He is not the first Hong Kong trainer to have a runner in Korea – South African handler Tony Millard brought Super Jockey last year, taking the inaugural KRW700 million Korea Sprint – but he is the first to have a runner in the country’s richest race, the KRW1 billion Korea Cup.

“It is big prizemoney and we know a horse like Circuit Land can handle any surface,” he said. “Lucky Year, I wanted to travel him last year but the right race wasn’t there. This looks a good race for him, although the surface is more of a query because he has only trialled on the all-weather track at home.”

Lucky Year (Jimmy Ting, no. 4) and Circuit Land (Nash Rawiller, no. 3) worked together this morning ahead of the Korea Sprint and Korea Cup this Sunday, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

For now, his immediate focus is on Circuit Land and Lucky Year’s preparations for Sunday’s features, which reached a zenith on Friday morning when the pair galloped together on Seoul’s sandy surface.

Lucky Year, with Shum’s assistant Jimmy Ting in the saddle, just shaded Circuit Land and Nash Rawiller, but the trainer was satisfied with the final major gallop for both horses.

“I didn’t want the horses to have a strong gallop, I just wanted them to give their riders a nice feel,” Shum said. “It was more a strong canter than a gallop, a half mile (800m) in 54 (seconds), something like this, half pace. But they both had a good preparation before they came over here, they raced long into last season, they had two trials and a couple of gallops before getting here which I think helped them to acclimatise.”

Rawiller also reported himself pleased with Circuit Land’s work, completed under the watchful eye of owner Ngo Tai Tak.

“I just followed Lucky Year on Circuit Land,” the Australian rider said. “Just gave him a fairly easy time, let him stride out and enjoy himself. Obviously we are racing a different way, so we were just making sure they were on their right legs turning for home – they balanced up nicely and breezed up the straight.

“Circuit Land is his normal self, he’s bouncing out of his skin and really enjoying himself. The surface here is probably a lot different to what they are used to, but the feel he gives me, with his week’s preparation here, he’s really adapted well to it.”

Rawiller, who will be in the saddle on both Lucky Year and Circuit Land on Sunday, is excited by the condition of both horses after inspecting them at Seoul on Friday morning.

“Jimmy, who rode Lucky Year, he felt that it was the first time his horse had actually got onto his right leg and done everything correctly going this way,” he added. “He’s of the opinion the horse should have no trouble with the surface as well. So that’s probably the main thing at the moment … it’s whether they adapt to the surface and they should be very competitive.

“I think Lucky Year’s form is on par with Super Jockey, so I’d be hoping for a big run from him too. They just need everything to fall into place.”

Another familiar face to Hong Kong racing fans turned up at trackwork in Seoul on Friday morning, with French jockey Gerald Mosse also on hand to ride work. He partnered French mare Skiperia, who runs in the Korea Cup, in a gallop.

Both races will be available for betting in Hong Kong on Sunday. The Keeneland Korea Sprint will be run at 2.30pm, between Sha Tin races four and five, while the Korea Cup comes up at 3.35pm, between Sha Tin races six and seven.