Two of Hong Kong’s potential contenders for Dubai World Cup night test their credentials on Sha Tin’s all-weather surface this Saturday (12 January) 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.”
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.
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club