Pegasus could fly into contention, says Lai
Jockey Alex Lai Hoi-wing is eagerly anticipating his first chance at winning the Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin tomorrow, and if his record for trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai is anything to go by, an upset aboard Outdoor Pegasus may be on the cards in the HK$16 million feature.
Lai, 27, combined with Yiu to cause a major boilover with Ultra Fantasy in the International Group One Sprinters Stakes (1,200m) at Nakayama racecourse in Tokyo last year, defying 30-1 starting odds to win one of the richest sprint races in the world and claim his first and only major.
Perhaps it is a sign from the great bookmaker in the sky that Outdoor Pegasus has also been posted a 30-1 chance in early overseas markets on the Derby.
'I feel a bit like I did before the race in Japan, the horse is going well and when we drew barrier two on Thursday it was a great feeling,' Lai said.
'It is the best draw to have, and I really hope I can win my second Group One for Ricky in my first ever ride in the Derby.'
Odds coincidences aside, Outdoor Pegasus could be a chance at upsetting the more favoured runners from his inner draw, especially given the inkling from Lai that perhaps the horse would be positioned closer to the speed than he has in the past.
'Outdoor Pegasus cannot go forward to lead, he has no early speed, but from the good draw it is possible we can land midfield if the opportunity is there,' Lai said.
'I will wait and watch for any track bias on the day before Ricky and I decide on any possible tactic changes.'
With many of the connections expressing fears of a slow tempo in the Derby at the barrier draw on Thursday, punters may expect a few runners to vary their racing patterns in a bid to claim the HK$9 million winner's cheque.
Trainer Yiu also hinted at Outdoor Pegasus settling closer from barrier two, after his horse was made to cover a lot of ground in sprinting from the rear of the Classic Cup field last start after dropping back at the start.
Outdoor Pegasus placed fifth in the Group One Mercedes-Benz Classic Cup (1,800m) behind Ambitious Dragon, after making his run alongside Xtension and bumping with John Moore's horse at the top of the straight.
'The draw for Outdoor Pegasus was very important stepping up to 2,000 metres for the first time, so to get gate two was excellent news,' Yiu said. 'A lot will depend on the tempo of the race. I expect he might land closer than he has in the past, around midfield if he begins well.
'Many horses in this race like to come from behind, so of course it will be a concern if there is a muddled tempo, because he may get bottled up on the rail and not get his chance to sprint.'