The Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Travel Emperor presents one of the classic racing puzzles on Wednesday night in the Hong Kong Rugby Union Cup (1,200m), but it’s a race he can win if he can produce his best.
The question that sits over Travel Emperor (Derek Leung Ka-chun) is whether he can perform at Happy Valley, where he has never raced or even barrier trialled.
We have seen a number of horses this season fail to handle the Valley track at their first look, but it’s hard to hang a horse for something he hasn’t yet done.
The one clue we do have is that Travel Emperor won on the dirt at his first time of asking on that surface over 1,200m before failing to cope with 1,650m there last time.
So back to 1,200m is a tick for Travel Emperor and so is his dirt win in Class Four, as there is a crossover between horses which race well on the dirt and those who race well at Happy Valley, as both surfaces are slightly forgiving underfoot.
With 131 pounds, he was able to sit just behind the speed in that dirt win and finish too well, and has a much lighter handicap in Class Three. From gate two, he gets a similar run just behind pace runners, Best Step and Prince Harmony (Jack Wong Ho-nam), following the rail into the straight before launching his finish.
While his handicap gives Travel Emperor an edge over those at the top of the racecard, it won’t be as much of a weapon against some major rivals like Spring Win (Keith Yeung Ming-lun) and Double Valentine (Joao Moreira) who are also down in the weights. Spring Win looks the major threat, having drawn a barrier for a change.
He won two on end in Class Four at the Valley 1,200m mid-season but has been hampered by wide draws at his last two runs in this class.