Trainer Chris So Wai-yin is confident his second mid-season sojourn to Dubai will be better than his first disastrous trip as Hong Kong’s latest dirt freak Classic Emperor prepares for his overseas debut on Thursday night.
“The horse has settled in well, we are very happy with him,” So said as he watched Classic Emperor canter past at Meydan on Tuesday.
“We have the same work rider here as we did last year and he said Classic Emperor is more relaxed than Fabulous One was 12 months ago and also might handle the track better – so far, everything looks great. Compared to last year we are feeling like we can do better.”
An improvement on Fabulous One’s performances would not be difficult after the sprinter failed to adapt to Dubai in two unplaced runs.
“He didn’t handle the left-hand turn and then we tried him up the straight and that didn’t work out either,” was So’s summary of his first experience travelling a horse as head trainer. “It didn’t go well at all.”
Classic Emperor’s American dirt pedigree and a string of strong performances on Sha Tin’s all-weather track this season convinced So to head abroad again but adapting to Dubai’s sandier surface is always a question mark for visitors.
“I think Fabulous One handled the track but just not the anticlockwise turn, but based on Classic Emperor’s pedigree, how he has settled in and his racing style, I feel like he will handle everything really well,” he said.
The six-year-old will carry 59.5kg in a 1,600m handicap worth US$125,000 on Thursday night with a view to qualifying for rich stakes races on Super Saturday (March 10) and Dubai World Cup night (March 31).
So said Classic Emperor would not have a hard gallop before the race and was content with the horse’s lead-up work at Sha Tin since a convincing win on January 13.
“He did all of his work for this at home, that was the plan, and even though he lost a little bit of weight on the flight over he has put it all back on,” So said.
The race represents a golden opportunity for leading local jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun, with this race the first time the 29-year-old rising star has ridden a Hong Kong-trained horse on foreign soil.
On Tuesday afternoon, Leung then received the news that Classic Emperor had drawn barrier two.
“It’s obviously a big honour to be trusted with this ride and that draw looks perfect,” he said. “I have some homework to do and some replays to watch before I fly to Dubai after the races on Wednesday night.”