A poor barrier trial has put Rich Tapestry’s planned swansong in Seoul next month in doubt and trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai says he will retire the globetrotting sprinter if his veteran fails vet tests this weekend.
Chang’s eight-year-old is scheduled to fly to Korea on Sunday but a lacklustre dirt trial at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning has put a tilt at the rich Korea Sprint in the balance and could mark the end of a 35-start career that saw the gelding compete in six countries.
“There is no point racing in Korea if he isn’t right – this horse has done his job already, he is getting old,” Chang said. “I am happy to give him that chance in Korea though, and it would be his last run, but we cannot push him. Anything he does from now on is a bonus. If he doesn’t race in Korea, he will be retired.”
Rich Tapestry has been something of a pioneer, notching a number of firsts for Hong Kong racing, with the Irish-bred galloper’s win in the 2014 Santa Anita Sprint Championship the first time a horse from the jurisdiction had won in North America, let alone at the highest level.
The son of Holy Roman Emperor then became the first Hong Kong-trained horse to compete at a Breeders’ Cup a month later, but it has been his efforts at Meydan racecourse in Dubai – where he won the 2014 Group Three Mahab Al Shimaal and the 2016 Group Three Al Shindagha Sprint and placed in the Group One Golden Shaheen in 2014 and 2015 – that helped usher in a new era of dirt sprinters to spring from Sha Tin.
Whether Rich Tapestry joins fellow surface specialist Super Jockey in the US$700,000 sprint on September 11 will depend on how Chang’s horse responds to treatment in the next few days.
“He has been carrying some joint problems since Dubai in March,” Chang said. “We have medicated his joints, his front fetlocks, and he will see the vet on the weekend so I will leave it with them. If they say go, we go, but if he isn’t right we will retire him.”
Rich Tapestry was placed close to the speed in the 1,200m trial and appeared to be travelling well until regular jockey Olivier Doleuze peeled clear and asked for a response in the straight, the usually honest campaigner uncharacteristically failing to keep pace and subsequently beaten more than seven lengths by Class Two sprinter Blocker Dee.
It will be the turn of fellow Korean feature entrant Gun Pit to trial on Wednesday morning, with trainer Caspar Fownes also wanting to see some good signs if he is to press ahead to the US$1 million Korea Cup.
“We are still sitting on the fence a bit,” Fownes said. “If he trials like a bulldozer and really runs through the line we will go to Korea, but if not we will head to a race first-up in America, there’s nothing for him here on the programme until late October.”
What worries Fownes is the sandy surface at Seoul racecourse, with Gun Pit taking a dislike to the kickback when racing in Dubai earlier this year, and the trainer feels his horse will be better suited on American-style dirt that is more similar to Sha Tin’s all-weather track.
“He didn’t like the sand being kicked in his face there and I’ve been watching the racing from Korea and it doesn’t look that suitable for him,” he said.