Australian trainer David Hall’s meticulous 11-month plan will come to fruition on Monday when talented galloper Little Giant makes his return to the races after an injury-enforced lay-off.
The former New Zealand-trained gelding, who thrashed the likes of three-time Australian Group One winner Humidor as a three-year-old, has had just three starts in Hong Kong despite coming into his third season this year.
Plagued by continual foot problems since his arrival, Hall has been forced to be patient with the gelding with his last start being in November last year, where he came from behind to dominate a strong Class Two field at Sha Tin as an odds-on favourite.
Little Giant has become somewhat of a labour of love for Hall, who says he is just happy to see him back at the races after ticking all the boxes during three recent trials.
He will line up in the Class Two Beijing Handicap (1,200m) against other well-rated chances Super Fluke, California Fortune and Wishful Thinker.
“He’s had three trials and each one he has progressed quite well, which you can see,” Hall said. “But the most important thing is his quartercrack seems to be quite stable and under control and it will just be good to see him get back on the track. I am sure whatever he does he will improve on.”
Hall still believes Little Giant is yet to produce his best work, saying he was reluctant to lock in plans for his future because there were a number of possibilities going forward.
“We haven’t seen what distance he might be best at yet so it will be good to just see him back out there,” he said. “He just needs some miles in his legs and we’ll see where he can head.”
The onset of cooler weather through January and February earlier this year caused issues with the horse’s feet to flare up, forcing Hall to give more time to his recovery.
“The shoeing has always been something that of course we have to pay a lot of attention to,” he said.
“At that time of the year, they tend to come around February, January when the temperature changes a little bit. It’s probably more of a time where it is more susceptible to happen.
“At the moment it is all under control, his feet are good and his last trial showed he had improved from his first two.”
Champion jockey Zac Purton will take the ride, giving an indication the horse is a genuine winning chance.
His final trial last week gave Hall enough confidence he was fit enough to race after he cleared out to win by three lengths, running the fastest time for the day in the process.
“You go the races and of course you can’t say he’s going to be 100 per cent fit after such a long time off, but on the back of his last trial we are happy to send him back to the races and see what he can do and try to improve on it,” he said.
Rival trainer Richard Gibson said his horse, Wishful Thinker, was wound up and ready for the race, despite missing out on a run two weeks ago because of Typhoon Mangkhut.
The five-year-old drops down in class after putting in a strong performance in Class One company on opening day this month.
Gibson said the horse would appreciate running behind a strong tempo, opening up the possibility to run on as a backmarker.
The son of I Am Invincible has been consistent during his time in Hong Kong, only missing a placing once in his seven starts, despite racing among top company.