After being on the wrong side of the camera midweek, trainer Michael Freedman thought he knew which way the decision might come down at Sha Tin on Sunday when Verbinsky and Key Witness hit the line together and looking inseparable.
On Wednesday night, Freedman had just three runners at Happy Valley – Happy Friendship, Master Bernini and Play Wise – and all ran second, with the first and last downed in photo finishes.
On Sunday, most thought the Tony Cruz-trained Key Witness had arrived in time, but it was the ex-Tony Cruz horse who bobbed in time under Douglas Whyte, Verbinsky.
“When they hit the line, all I could think after Wednesday was ‘here we go again’,” said Freedman when the number was safely in the frame. “Seeing it live, I thought the other one got his head down but when they showed the slow-motion replay, I thought I was back in it.”
It was a welcome return to Sha Tin after Verbinsky had done most of his racing in the past 16 months at Happy Valley and Whyte believes Freedman pulled the right rein.
“I’ve had a bit to do with this horse in the past, including being on him in both his wins, and I think he’s lost his initial speed and turn of foot that he had before at Happy Valley over 1,200m,” Whyte said. “He ran well there for me in his first run for Michael but it was a good call to bring him here.”
Whyte said the now six-year-old might be starting to revert to the type of horse that he was when bought with an eye to the four-year-old classics.
“He came here with form up to 1,700m in Italy and he’s feeling a little more dour now,” he said. “He needed every inch of the longer straight to get there today. And the way he feels, he should definitely handle 1,400m now.”
Freedman admitted he was “having a throw at the stumps”, after looking at the horse’s form and seeing his successful runs were mostly at Happy Valley.
“Just the way he got to the line last time, though, made me think the bigger track had to suit him. It was worth the experiment,” he said. “The horse has settled in quickly to his new routine with us and it’s nice to have another one of these higher-rated sort of horses going well.”