Right Choice has done little wrong in his career to date and on Sunday (24 March) at Sha Tin the Frankie Lor-trained galloper will take his next step up the ranks with a first start at a mile in the Kowloon Cricket Club Centenary Cup Handicap (1600m).
“He’s by Mastercraftsman so the distance should be no problem; I think the mile will actually be better for him.” Lor said this morning (22 March) after barrier trials at Sha Tin.
The handler is less sure about the four-year-old’s first attempt at Class 2. The likeable 84-rated talent has climbed into the grade with four wins from five starts, having started off a rating of 52 in a 1200m Class 4 back in November. Each subsequent race has been at 1400m.
“Now he’s into Class 2 he has a light weight (117lb), which will help, but he’s up in class so I can’t say he’ll win but he should run a nice race,” Lor said.
“He’s an easy horse to train. He looked a little bit light and not too strong before he came here but when I started to train him he did well and looked okay. He trialled well and then showed that he has some ability when he won his first race.”
Silvestre de Sousa has partnered Right Choice in each of his last four races and will be in the plate again before jetting back to Britain on Sunday night to commence a retainer with King Power Racing.
Last time out, the Brazilian overcame the wide gate and slotted Right Choice a handy fourth. The gelding seemed to appreciate every stride down the home stretch, giving Lor his career 100th win in commanding style. But the handler was circumspect as to just how much more improvement the New Zealand-bred might hold.
“He’s improved every time, so if he can do that again maybe he could keep going up the ratings. This race will tell us a lot more about his progress and what he might do in the future,” Lor said.
The John Size-trained Time To Celebrate (133lb) tops the field of nine under Joao Moreira. The 100-rated five-year-old easily won a six-runner Class 2 at the course and distance last month, for which his rating increased by 10 points.
Voyage Warrior (126lb) has caused a buzz in recent weeks and Ricky Yiu’s charge makes his career debut in the Class 4 Pine Tree Hill Handicap (1000m) down the straight.
The three-year-old has shown eye-catching speed in his latest two barrier trials, in which he passed the post well clear of his fellow triallists.
“He’s been trialling well, he’s a nice little horse,” jockey Karis Teetan said. The rider has held the reins in each of those hit-outs.
“After a few trials I think he’s ready to go to the races and I’m looking forward to riding him. He knows a little bit already, he’s a quick learner and after each trial he’s been getting better.”
Voyage Warrior streaked clear by four lengths and then six and three-quarter lengths in the most recent two of his three trials. The Australian-bred Declaration Of War gelding arrived at Yiu’s yard in November.
“He jumped quickly and did it so easily,” the trainer said. “The last trial, I asked the jockey to give him a bit of pressure to the finish and he handled it really well. He has a good temperament; he’s very relaxed; he’s a professional.”
Teetan, too, has been pleased with Voyage Warrior’s raw pace but is not getting carried away heading into the chestnut’s first race-day test.
“In the trials he showed a bit of speed. Of course, now it’s different going to the races,” the Mauritian rider said. “In the trial he was able to get away from them but he’s showing us some promise so I think it’s time for him to run well.”
Teetan sides with Voyage Warrior against a horse he partnered to a debut win down the straight last time, the Frankie Lor-trained Joyful Heart (133lb). Champion Jockey Zac Purton takes over on the top-weight.
“Joyful Heart is a very nice horse,” Teetan said. “He sort of didn’t know where he was halfway into the race and the last half he turned the engine on and went on strongly to win the race. He looks like a danger but my horse is drawn on the outside (14) so that might help him a little bit too.”
Purton, meanwhile, will seek recompense atop Prince Of Gems in the Class 4 Parkes Handicap (1200m) on the all-weather track. The Dennis Yip-trained gelding won first up but was only sixth last time after traffic issues
“Joao (Moreira) just shut the door on him and that was the end of the race,” Purton said. “He was travelling okay; he’s not the type of horse that travels strongly in behind them. It would be fair to assume he would have found a little bit.”
The I Am Invincible four-year-old is making his dirt-race debut.
“He seems to go well on the dirt, he’s trialled well on it before,” the rider continued. “He’s not a push-button type of horse, he needs to find the right rhythm – keep him happy. Hopefully we can do that.”
Sha Tin’s 10-race card starts at 12.45pm (ADST 15:45) with the Class 5 Tak Shing Handicap (1400m). The Jockey Club will simulcast the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) from Chukyo Racecourse, Japan between races four and five.
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club