It will be a case of now or never for talented yet frustrating galloper Lockheed when he lines up at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, his trainer believes.
Bought out of England with Group One form as a two-year-old, Lockheed came to Hong Kong with high hopes for the Derby last season but ran 10th as a $269 outsider.
Since then, trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing conceded he has struggled to crack the code to the four-year-old.
In search of a change of environment for his horse, Shum said he was hoping the tight and often frantic Happy Valley track could inspire a change of form in the Class Three Citi Sprint Challenge Cup (1,200m).
“I don’t know any secrets to him, if there is, I don’t have the key yet … still searching,” he joked. “I’ve been a bit disappointed to be honest, hopefully down in Class Three with a lot of speed at Happy Valley he can stay and finish well, that’s the plan.”
The son of Exceed and Excel raced first-up down the Sha Tin straight in Class Three company for the first time two weeks ago and ran on well to place third behind Triumphant Jewel.
Shum, however, wasn’t thrilled with the run, saying he was in search of a weak race as he moves up in distance to try and instil some confidence in his runner.
“It was OK, just OK. We want to try him at Happy Valley because we trialled him at Happy Valley and it was not too bad, so we will give him an opportunity,” he said.
“But the mile is a much stronger field than 1,200m so hopefully we can find some weak races and do something.
“He only needs a draw and some luck. I think at this stage 1,200m will be OK but later he needs longer.”
Shum’s prayers for an inside draw at Happy Valley were not answered, with Lockheed dealt barrier 12 for Wednesday night.
Despite the wide draw, Lockheed’s raw ability may be enough to get him over the line in the race with many of his opponents struggling to find consistent form.
Shum, who has trained six winners so far this season, will also bring Baltic Whisper to the races for the first time this season.
The Australian import will race in the Class Two Verbena Handicap (1,000m) as he attempts to build on his two Class Three victories to date in Hong Kong.
While he does not have the overseas form of his stablemate Lockheed, Baltic Whisper has been able to win twice in his six starts in Hong Kong.
But with his gelding now among tougher opposition in Class Two, Shum said he was hoping to try something different by giving him his first Happy Valley start in the hope of inspiring him to go to the next level.
“He is the same, it is a low distance for him in Class Two so we take him to Happy Valley,” he said. “He doesn’t turn very well this horse, he needs a lot of luck.
“I’ll just give him a chance and see what he can do. I just want to try at Happy Valley and see what they can do.”