Trainer Tony Millard arrived in Seoul for his first look at Super Jockey ahead of the Korea Sprint on Friday morning and got a shock, yet it was the softness of the sand track rather than his veteran sprinter’s condition causing concern.
Millard said his eight-year-old was in top shape for Sunday’s US$700,000 race but it was a walk across the sand course to watch his horse canter that had the South African surprised by the beach-like nature of the racing surface.
“It’s very heavy, it seems to be endless,” Millard said of the sand track, before suggesting that even though the visitors might have a class edge on the Korean-trained entrants, the gap could be closed somewhat by the locals’ experience on the course. “For a Hong Kong horse, one that is used to the lighter surface, it’s something to which we have to adapt. It’s deep, but it is what it is and we have to deal with it. That’s what they race on – we have to run on it, but so does everyone else.”
Super Jockey’s has raced well on Sha Tin’s American-style dirt, but the son of Sandtrap’s career-best display was arguably a narrow second to Secret Circle in the 2015 Group One Golden Shaheen at Meydan – a sandier surface that more closely resembles the track at Seoul.
After the withdrawal of Rich Tapestry and Gun Pit from Sunday’s two features, Super Jockey travelled solo on the relatively short trip to South Korea accompanied by Millard’s wife Bev, a trackwork rider, and the trainer said the horse “is right on his racing weight” ahead of the Korea Sprint.
“He has done well, he has travelled quite a bit previously and he has settled in OK,” Millard said. “I’m happy, his weight is good and that’s a good indicator, I’m happy with him. He is a seasoned traveller and a secure type – he doesn’t fret much, so it was all pretty smooth. He is around his racing weight, he hasn’t lost any weight.”
“We had planned the whole thing three months ago, and while it is one thing planning and another pulling it off, everything has been smooth so far.”
Before departing Sha Tin, Super Jockey completed a sensational barrier trial that had many observers stating that the gelding was going as well as ever.
Millard said it wasn’t inconceivable that the winner of three from 21 was still on the up, even at eight, given the relatively light workload the horse had been given.
“He is a relatively unburnt horse, I have always been conservative with him. I don’t have an abundance of good horses, so I have protected him. I haven’t raced him a great deal and I think it has kept him young,” Millard said.
The trainer refused to say what his plans are for Super Jockey beyond Sunday, although a return trip to Dubai early next year would seem an obvious target.
“We are taking one thing at a time. We will look at Sunday, and from there, once we get through that, we will decide,” he said.