An arduous season is yet to take the edge off Blizzard, according to jockey Karis Teetan, who will reunite with the budding iron horse when he returns to a more suitable 1,200m in Sunday’s Group Three Sha Tin Vase.
Blizzard has already raced nine times this season, including runs in all three races of the four-year-old series, with the tough gelding sitting wide on many occasions and fighting out numerous close finishes.
At the behest of Blizzard’s owners, Ricky Yiu Poon-fai even stretched his sprinter past the limit distance-wise to 2,000m in search of once-in-a-lifetime Derby glory – before returning to 1,400m last start.
After a short freshen-up, Blizzard returns to 1,200m for the first time since October, a distance at which the son of Starcraft has won his last three and, importantly, Teetan said there are no signs of fatigue at track work.
“The horse has gone through so much – but he still feels fresh and full of energy. I have been surprised at the way he has felt, he feels great,” said Teetan, who has won four races on Blizzard, but hasn’t ridden the horse since November last year. “It’s good to be back on him, and the best thing is that he is still full of beans towards the end of the season and this looks a good race for him. There is nothing to lose for him, he has won over 1,200m four times before – maybe 1,400m is his best trip but 1,600m is his absolute maximum.”
Yiu said he could understand why owners were lured into a tilt at the Derby, even if it seemed clear early on that the horse was best suited to shorter trips.
“It wasn’t our intention to run in the Derby early on,” Yiu said. “His best distance is 1,200m or 1,400m, but he is such a good, competitive horse that even when you stretch him he never gets beaten far.
The way he ran at a mile and then 1,800m, where he was only just beaten in the Classic Cup, then the owners wanted to put him in the Derby, for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Blizzard faces eight rivals on Sunday, carrying the limit weight of 113 pounds in a race where horses carrying 118 or less have won for the last three years.
“He will run well and I’m pretty optimistic with that weight,” Yiu said. “His run over 1,400m was good after the Derby, he pulled up well and we have kept him as fresh as possible since then as he comes back in distance.”
Despite there being upcoming Group Threes at 1,400m and 1,600m, Yiu said it was unlikely Blizzard would be pushed beyond Sunday’s race.
“I think he has earned a break,” Yiu said.