Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai says Blizzard heads to the Group One Sprinters Stakes in Japan whether he wins his tough opening day assignment in the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday or not.
Japanese features have been a mixed bag for Yiu, who tried and failed three times to get his great sprinter Sacred Kingdom there for Group Ones, only to have injury intervene twice and a colic attack on the tarmac at Chek Lap Kok prevented the final trip.
Yiu showed he wasn’t superstitious when he subsequently took unheralded Ultra Fantasy to Nakayama to win the Sprinters Stakes at huge odds seven years ago.
Blizzard probably lies somewhere between those two horses in terms of talent but Yiu believes he’s the kind of horse that is ideal to travel and Japan is not an idea which has just emerged.
“He’s such a lovable horse. He gives you everything all the time and he is versatile. And maybe he will enjoy racing somewhere other than Sha Tin,” Yiu said. “The stake money is very attractive in Japan and this has been the plan since we shut him down before the end of last season – the Chief Executive’s Cup then the Sprinters Stakes.”
Despite the Group One aims overseas, Yiu admits that Sunday’s race might prove just as hard to win when he concedes between 15 and 27 pounds to his six rivals and has the outside barrier in the small field.
“The worry on Sunday is that one of these younger horses with the light weights will beat him,” he said. “If it wasn’t a handicap, I would be very confident but it isn’t so, as much as we want to win, I would still be satisfied if he runs a good second or third and we can put his defeat down to the handicaps. One thing, it looks like we will get a strong pace to spread them out so he can slot in and finish off.”
Zac Purton takes the ride on Sunday and Yiu is hopeful that he will be aboard in Tokyo as well.
“I asked him for both races but you know the jockeys sometimes want to wait and see how he goes in the first one – there are two Group Threes here on October 1 too, the same day as the race in Japan, so I guess they do have something to think about,” Yiu said.
“Anyway, I don’t have another rider for Tokyo at this stage. Hopefully having Zac on Sunday will be a plus, not only because he’s a good jockey but, so early in the season, he is probably quite heavy, so the horse won’t have too much dead weight in the saddle.”