Frankie Lor finds himself in the unexpected position of having a contender for Sunday’s HK$10 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) just six months after graduating to the trainers’ ranks at Sha Tin.
“At this moment, I am very lucky to be in the race, I can tell you – that’s my feeling,” Lor said as he considered Morethanlucky’s place in the field of 12 for the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“I’m very happy to have a horse in the Classic Mile because at the beginning of the season I didn't think this horse would be in this race!”
The truth is no one did. Lor, who sits second in the premiership with 32 wins thanks to a rocketing start to his training career, inherited the gelding from fellow handler Benno Yung as an anonymous 53-rater without a win from seven Hong Kong races.
Morethanlucky cruises to an impressive victory in his last start, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
But maturity has brought about improvement. Morethanlucky has compiled four wins from five outings since September, his last three at the course and distance, and has risen to a mark of 82. That is still 30 rating points inferior to the four-year-old high-weight Nothingilikemore, but Lor and the Funs of Family Racing Syndicate have opted to give the Per Incanto gelding his chance in what is a one-shot contest.
“He’s improved since last season and everything looks good for him; he’s a four-year-old so why not try him in the big race for the owners? He at least has experience of racing here that some of the others don’t have yet,” Lor said.
“I talked to the owners and asked ‘Can we do it?’ And then after his last run we said if he wins we’ll talk to the jockey and see, and he won, so we are here.”
Morethanlucky’s jockey is Karis Teetan, ever-present this term.
“I think it’s a good decision to go for this race,” the Mauritian ace said. “He’s getting better as he gets older and I do see him running a very good race on Sunday. He has the quality to be in this race.
“He’s improved very quickly in the space of the last five months, but if you look at his performances, he’s been setting up some good times when he’s winning and he’s always finished his races strongly.”
Morethanlucky’s time of 1m 33.78s for a 1600m Class 4 handicap win at Sha Tin in October was the fastest time recorded at that class and distance in the last 11 seasons, since timing to hundredths was introduced. It was also the third fastest 1600m run at Sha Tin this season: only Beauty Generation has registered a faster winning time, and when he did it was in the G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1m 33.56s) and the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1m 33.72s), no less.
Teetan is banking on Morethanlucky’s experience against imports that are only just beginning to find their feet as they proceed towards the next two legs in the series, next month’s Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) in mid-March.
“John’s (Size) horse, Nothingilikemore, he looks like he’s the horse everyone has to beat on Sunday but there are quite a few of those good horses that are maybe not quite ready yet, they might need another run to get there, so this race could be Morethanlucky’s best chance, rather than the next one. Maybe later he won’t be able to take them on and beat them,” Teetan said.
Lor is not allowing the thrill of a runner in one of Hong Kong’s most important races get the better of him but he is approaching the task with positivity.
“I know he has a lot to make up on the rating but we’re going in to really try our best. I’m not sure whether his best will be good enough but he’s in good form and we’ll find out on Sunday,” the handler said.
The freshman trainer is well-acquainted with major successes having assisted two of Hong Kong’s greatest trainers in John Moore, and latterly, Size. That grounding is evident in his approach according to Teetan, who has been impressed with the former jockey’s start to his training career.
“It’s unbelievable that he has a runner with a chance in the Classic Mile already,” Teetan said. “He’s a good trainer, he thinks a lot and he does the right things. He plans - but he’s been with the best - you can see how he plans for his horses, he doesn’t rush them. He’ll give them their time off between their races, then he’ll bring them again, he’ll trial them - you can see how his style is like John Size.”
If Lor can successfully bridge the gap between a last start Class 3 handicap win and the first race in Hong Kong’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series, a race that in recent times has gone the way of Able Friend, Rapper Dragon and Lucky Nine, he will certainly have earned a little comparison to the master.