Singapore has long been a rewarding hunting ground for Hong Kong trainers and on Saturday long-time Sha Tin resident Tony Millard will get his first taste of competition in the Lion City when Horse Of Fortune takes his place in the SG1 Kranji Mile.
“I’ve never been here before,” Millard said as he surveyed Kranji Racecourse’s half-lit expanse at around 5:30 am on Friday morning (25 May). Horse Of Fortune had just completed a steady canter around one lap of the Polytrack.
“Let him walk,” the trainer said to the gelding’s groom, gesturing a short way along the turf course, close to where the seven-year-old will enter the starting gate on race day. Horse Of Fortune, unsaddled and outwardly content, milled around for a minute or two as Millard observed from beneath the sharp peak of one of his familiar baseball caps. And then: “Okay, take him back.”
Since 2000 – the tail-end of Millard’s first season at Sha Tin – Hong Kong has sent 38 competitors to Singapore for eight wins and a further 11 top three finishes, spanning 18 races. Millard’s fellow Hong Kong-based handler, Caspar Fownes, boasts three of those wins and stands in opposition this time with his G1 Champions Mile third Southern Legend.
But Millard, most famous in recent years for his handling of the exceptional Ambitious Dragon, has his own overseas achievements: Super Jockey ran away with the inaugural Korea Sprint in 2016 and was an agonizingly close second in the 2015 G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, while the fast mare Sweet Sanette placed third for him in the G1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot back in 2011.
Horse Of Fortune canters at the Polytrack today ahead of the Kranji Mile, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
The South African handler now looks to a South African import to deliver a memorable Singapore debut. Horse Of Fortune will line up with the equal second-highest rating in the field of 13, one point below the 115-rated Southern Legend. Millard believes that opponent should have the edge.
“My horse is taking on quite a bit here because Caspar’s horse has the class and the form to win this – he’s got all the plusses – you have to respect the form and the form says Southern Legend is the class horse,” he said.
Millard is a long way distant from being defeatist though.
“My horse is good on his day, he can run in the top class when you get him really well,” he said of the two-time G3 winner. “He comes well at this time of year – he won at this time last year – so there’s no reason why he can’t run well. He’s in good shape.”
The trainer came out of Thursday night’s barrier draw with gate two in his pocket.
“I’ve got no complaints, you couldn't ask for a better draw – it’s a big bonus. We just need to get him in a good spot,” Millard said.
“He travelled over here nicely, he looks well; he raced his whole career in South Africa going left-handed so that’s not a problem, and if we get him spot-on on the day he has a chance,” he added.
Karis Teetan, four times a winner aboard Horse Of Fortune, will ride on Saturday. The Mauritian last partnered the gelding when successful in the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse in November, 2016.
The inaugural international edition of the Kranji Mile also features New Zealand G2 winner Ocean Emperor and former Hong Kong-trained galloper Circuit Land, successful in a local G2 contest last time out.