Tony Millard has his sights set on the HK$28 million Longines Hong Kong Cup with Nassa after the talented but injury-plagued galloper caught the eye in a trial at Sha Tin on Friday morning.
The six-year-old has had just six starts in Hong Kong but flashed his ability with a terrific victory in the Group Three Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1,800m) last year when well out of the handicaps before finishing third behind Werther and Time Warp in the Group Two BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2,000m).
But that is the last time he has raced, succumbing to a tendon injury a fortnight later, adding to his previous ailments of a stress fracture and a suspensory ligament injury.
Despite spending plenty of time in veterinary care, Nassa has lost none of his gifts, which he showed in his third to Little Giant in the 1,200m trial on the all-weather track.
“We just wanted him to switch off and let him hit the line, which he did very well,” jockey Chad Schofield said.
“He just relaxed out the back, took all the runs up the inside and finished very powerfully, so you couldn’t have really asked for much more.
“He can really run, he’s an exciting horse and he felt great, so hopefully that injury is well and truly behind him.”
Nassa, who won two races in South Africa before moving to Hong Kong, will resume in the Group Two Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) on October 21 with Grant van Niekerk to take the ride as Schofield is already booked to partner stablemate and Classic Cup winner Singapore Sling.
Millard was delighted with what he saw and thinks having the “ultimate gear change” – being gelded – has helped.
“I think his temperament is better because he was a bit of a bull in a china shop. He’s not very big but he thinks he’s a 17-hand horse – he’s got the fire,” the trainer said.
“The biggest thing is that he is more manageable in the morning, he had been a nightmare so hopefully we can get him through now.
“He trialled better than what I thought he would – I’m very happy with him.
“He’ll have another barrier trial and we’ll go from there, but it was exactly what I wanted. As long as he can come back OK, he’s a pretty serious horse.
“On his day, he can run with any of them – it’s very exciting.”
Even with Nassa’s injury history, Millard is not taking any short-cuts to try and keep him sound.
“You can’t compromise, they need to be top fit, if they are not going to do it, sorry, there is nothing we can do,” Millard said, revealing Nassa is likely to have two runs before December’s Hong Kong International Races.
“You can’t go in there half fit because you won’t win anything. So they’ve got to take the work and if they take it, you’ve got a chance.”
Some of Hong Kong’s biggest names stepped out on Friday morning, including one star-studded heat where Fifty Fifty edged out reigning Horse of the Year Beauty Generation with Group One winners Seasons Bloom and Beauty Only further back in the field.
Fifty Fifty led home a star-studded barrier trial field at Sha Tin this morning, which included Hong Kong's Horse of the Year Beauty Generation, Seasons Bloom, Nothingilikemore and Beauty Only #HKRacing pic.twitter.com/U31pMhJkmS— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) September 21, 2018
Chairman’s Sprint Prize champion Ivictory looked good taking out his heat, while stablemate Hot King Prawn did likewise in the last of the seven trials.