Trainer Chris So Wai-yin is daring to dream with dirt track specialist Classic Emperor and is plotting a path towards the US$10 million Dubai World Cup after a second win on Sha Tin’s all-weather track on Saturday.
A Class Two handicap isn’t exactly a traditional stepping stone to what was until recently the world’s richest race, but So feels he has a handy dirt horse on his hands and with a dearth of options on the miler’s preferred surface at home, he will head abroad.
“Why not? There are no races for him here and he has showed that he really likes the dirt,” So said of a late-blooming six-year-old who is now two from three on non-turf surfaces.
“We will talk to the owner and work out a plan, obviously the World Cup is a very tough race to get into but we have to have a goal. If he doesn’t make it that’s OK, there are a lot of options there for us.”
So unsuccessfully campaigned sprinter Fabulous One in Dubai last year but said the speedy type’s failure had more to do with adapting to a left-handed turn than Meydan’s relatively new and sandier surface.
In the past, Hong Kong-trained horses like Rich Tapestry have raced well in Dubai but it was mostly on Meydan’s previous surface, Tapeta.
“It is different to here but there is only one way to find out whether or not he handles it, we have to take him there and see,” the trainer said.
Classic Emperor was not among the 12 Hong Kong-trained entries for World Cup night that were announced this week but can be supplemented for the feature races, including the main event.
Derek Leung Ka-chun’s suspension meant Keith Yeung Ming-lun was able to scoop up the winning ride and he kept his tactics simple on the 2.8 favourite, striding forward from barrier seven and finding a perfect one-out, one-back position.
“We sat in a comfortable position throughout the race and he travelled smoothly for me throughout, I wanted to follow the leaders and it panned out exactly as planned,” Yeung said, adding that the three-quarter length win with top weight was perhaps more impressive than the margin indicated.
“He really has emerged as a dirt specialist, so I wasn’t surprised at all that he won again like that.”
For So, the win capped a week where the trainer snapped a long and frustrating run of outs that had him considering a trip to a local temple to pray for a change of luck.
Exceptional Desire’s narrow win on Wednesday night was his first in more than a month, a stretch that included six seconds.
Adding to the pressure was the fact three of those seconds were odds-on favourites in a season in which 17 of his 26 favourites have finished in the top three but only four have won.
“It wasn’t like my horses were running badly, we had been very unlucky on a couple of occasions and then there have been times when horses at crazy odds have beaten those favourites, you just can’t predict that,” he said.
“But sure, I was starting to question my luck a little bit. But you have to stay positive; it’s not like I had forgotten how to train. Everybody goes through it at some stage, even when I was with Caspar [Fownes] we would have times like this, and I’m sure there will be other times in the future where it could be the same for me. I guess at least it builds character and now things are back on track. Those seconds will now become winners.”