Earlier this week, trainer Ricky Yiu and jockey Gerald Mosse each expressed a desire to draw closer to the inside rail. A middle berth in the 16-runner field was as wide as they wanted to be on Nakayama’s right-turning track. When told of Blizzard’s 12 berth (Friday) morning, Yiu was stoically upbeat.
“We have to be positive,” he said, “they haven’t run the race yet.”
The handler, who will land in Tokyo (Friday) afternoon, has a point. Since 1990, two horses have won from gate 12: only barriers eight, 10 and 13 have produced more winners than that at four apiece.
Red Falx exited gate 13 last year and ran on strongly up the Nakayama rise to pip the 15-drawn Mikki Isle by a head; race favourite Big Arthur was trapped on the fence, shuffled back from gate one to finish an untested 12th.
In the 1990 to 2016 period, more horses won from gates 10 and up than from nine and lower – 15 against 11 (Snow Dragon scored from 18 when the 2014 race was run at Niigata). The great Lord Kanaloa won his two Sprinters Stakes from 16 and 10.
Yiu anticipates that Blizzard might now press on and take an advanced position.
“From there we will have to go forward,” was his immediate reaction. “He’s a horse that jumps quickly and has some speed, so hopefully he can cross them. We want him up near the front – I think that’s the best place for him to be.”
The Starcraft chestnut continued his build-up with an easy canter this morning under regular exercise rider Stanley Wong. Blizzard was again keen upon entering the dirt track but soon relaxed and worked a lap of the circuit at a slow canter, increasing the tempo marginally on the home turn.
“His work has been very good, he’s in a good state of mind and he knows how to quicken on the track – it’s auto,” Wong said. “When he’s fit, he’s like this – when he’s on the turn, he will want to go on with it.
“I think we will stick to the same routine tomorrow but the boss is coming, so he could change things.”
Blizzard appeared to be in fine heart overall, enjoying the warm sunshine and attention from connections once his workout was over.
“He’s eating well,” Wong added. “He isn’t eating everything in the afternoon but his appetite is good in the evening.”
Red Falx, meanwhile, will break from gate eight this time, while Big Arthur, first-up since last December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint, has drawn barrier 10. Fine Needle, an eye-catching winner of the G2 Centaur Stakes (1200m) at Hanshin last start, has drawn 13.
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club