From a slow maturing start to a suspensory injury, to being beaten 40-plus lengths in a trial to possibly winning in Class Four on Wednesday night at Sha Tin, it’s been a roller coaster ride already for the owners of Gran Master.
Gran Master was a HK$2.2 million purchase at the 2016 Hong Kong International Sale, the equal second lowest priced lot at an all-star auction that included Pakistan Star and Jing Jing Win.
Trainer Peter Ho Leung is generally patient with his International Sales Griffins and didn’t push Gran Master as a three-year-old, not there would have been much point putting the middle-distance-staying type in with the speedy griffins anyway.
Yet just as Gran Master was getting ready to trial early this term, and while those and other higher profile ISGs were out on the track making a name, Gran Master was sidelined for nearly three months with a suspensory injury.
Gran Master returned to work around the turn of the year, but his first hapless trial would hardly have filled his owners with hope.
The grey was beaten out of sight, and while a second trial was only slightly more coordinated, a third showed some improvement.
Raceday brought out the best in Gran Master however, as the gelding switched on and showed a liking for the all-weather track that many of Mastercraftsman’s progeny share.
First Gran Master rattled home for fifth behind Imperial Seal on debut over 1,650m, earning a place in Alan Aitken’s Black Book column as a horse to follow in the future.
Back of the same course and distance two weeks ago, Gran Master progressed, taking a slightly better position in the run and again rattling home, this time for third behind Forever Posh.
This time the run caught the eye of leading jockey Joao Moreira, and the Brazilian has picked up the ride on Gran Master in the Pui O Handicap (1,800m).
A better barrier and the step up in trip both suit Gran Master, who is likely to start favourite against a moderate bunch given the jockey booking.
Later in the meeting, Richard Gibson’s Starlot (Chad Schofield) looks well drawn and a terrific chance of breaking through in the Class Four Hap Mun Bay Handicap (1,200m).
Starlot had dropped to a mark of 44 before producing a decent run for the first time in a dirt sprint.
The three-year-old seemed to have turned a corner and gave another indication with a runner-up performance over the same course and distance.
Schofield has another decent chance when Borntoachieve contests the Class Three Cheung Sha Handicap (1,200m).
Borntoachieve struggled up in Class Two at the start of the season but back in grade and on his preferred surface, he bounced back into form last start and should run another race here.