Two of Hong Kong’s potential contenders for Dubai World Cup night test their credentials on Sha Tin’s all-weather surface this Saturday as Elusive State and Fight Hero line up for the Leighton Handicap (1650m).
The Me Tsui-trained Fight Hero (133lb) heads the weights for the Class 2 feature ahead of a planned tilt at the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m) on 30 March, while Elusive State (113lb) needs to continue his winning spree for Tony Millard to boost his chance of fulfilling ambitious entries in either the G2 Godolphin Mile (1600m) or G1 Dubai World Cup (2000m).
Millard takes a refreshingly simple attitude to aiming so high with Elusive State, who was struggling in Class 4 company before finding his form for previous trainer Derek Cruz late last season.
“You’ve got to dream big,” sums up the South African’s approach and all the evidence suggests that Elusive State is thriving.
Silvestre de Sousa takes over from Chad Schofield for Saturday’s Class 2 contest and was impressed with his new partner in an easy trial recently.
“He’s put on a lot of weight and feels really strong and well built,” the jockey said. “He trialled good, jumping smartly and finishing on the bridle, and although he didn’t beat a lot last time he did it impressively. He’s up in class but he has a light weight and he’s a smart horse who is still improving.”
Elusive State (middle), picture Hing Kong Jockey Club
Fight Hero is no stranger to flying the Hong Kong flag with distinction abroad – he finished a close second in the KOR G1 Korea Sprint (1200m, sand) in September - and new rider Zac Purton is hoping for a fast pace as the veteran steps up from 1200m to an extended mile.
“I haven’t been on him in a race but I have ridden him in a piece of work and he’s a very strong horse who really wants to get on with it,” he said.
“If they go slow early on it might not be suitable – and being drawn out in gate 11 doesn’t help – but I just have to give him his chance and hope the speed is on to bring his finish into play.”
Fight Hero’s regular rider Derek Leung partners Turin Redstar this time but stall 14 over course and distance has produced just one winner from 54 starters in recent years.
“It’s going to be tough from out so wide,” he said.
Schofield hoping Shimmer can Shine
Chad Schofield returns from a two-meeting suspension refreshed after a short break in Sydney and is reunited with a familiar partner as Shimmer And Shine (116lb) comes back from a break of his own in a highly competitive Class 3 Ventris Handicap (1200m).
Schofield has dropped to ninth on the jockeys’ ladder after a frustrating end to 2018 which saw support from long-term ally Millard dry up.
However, the 24-year-old is determined to climb again with the aid of a promising young horse who has left Millard for Caspar Fownes since his last run.
Shimmer And Shine won two of his five starts with Schofield aboard and showed fine speed in his first trial for Fownes to finish second to high-class stayer Eagle Way.
“When he trialled he wore blinkers and he felt really good,” said Schofield. “He’s a nice young horse on the way up and let’s hope he can get off to a good start in his new stable.”
The rider feels lack of peak fitness is unlikely to be an issue for Shimmer And Shine’s first run in four months.
“He’s a very athletic horse and I think Caspar has done a fair bit of work with him,” he said. “The draw is a little bit awkward (stall nine) but there’s a bit of pace inside and outside me so we’ll bang him out and see where we end up.”
One of those drawn inside Shimmer And Shine is Tornado Twist (114lb), whose trainer John Size is mindful of the need to break well from stall three.
“It was only a Class 4 last time but he seems like he’s got more in him,” he said. “He’s not perfect in the gate – so he’s had some practice to try and relax him a bit more – but he needs to get out well to take advantage of his low
So facing weighty problem
Trainer Chris So sends four recent Sha Tin winners back into battle this Saturday but their handler is well aware that life will be tougher now the quartet have been raised a combined total of 32lb.
Tianchi Monster (130lb) and Smart Charade (118lb) line up for the Sun Wui Handicap (1800m) and the Yun Ping Handicap (1400m) having been raised eight points each, while Hang’s Decision (113lb) bids to defy a six-point hike in the Leighton Handicap, and Invincible Missile (115lb) tackles Tornado Twist in the Ventris Handicap after being hiked 10 points for a commanding debut success.
“John’s horse Tornado Twist was very impressive last time, but Invincible Missile seems like he has a lot of ability. He’s very young but stall 12 isn’t too bad on the A track and I think he will still be competitive,” So said.
Saturday’s action starts at 1pm with the Class 5 Broadwood Handicap (1200m).