Universal Go Go’s sudden form turnaround has surprised many Hong Kong punters, but none more so than his own jockey, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu.
The Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained gelding was uninspiring last season, running a best of seventh in three attempts, but has since turned it around, winning first-up this season and running an unlucky fourth since then.
Ho has ridden Universal Go Go in four of his five starts to date and said he was benefiting from a more mature state of mind along with the extra fitness required to cover longer distances.
“He was still quite green and was troubling last time but he gave me a good feel,” Ho said.
The four-year-old was the victim of a wide draw last start at Happy Valley where Ho was forced to go back and try to run on but found a large amount of traffic while turning for home.
With an inside draw in the Class Four Dianthus Handicap (1,650m), the gelding looks set to enjoy a much more favourable transit this time around while he will also be aided by the step up in distance, Ho believes.
“He should be much easier if he is in the inside of the field, I think he will travel much better,” he said. “I hope to sit in the field and he should travel well. He has always been looking for the longer distance and 1,200m is almost too short for him.”
When pressed on what he thought was the secret to the sudden form turnaround, Ho believed some time off racing to allow the horse to mature was what inspired the sudden jump in form.
“I knew he would improve a lot because early this season he galloped and was a lot stronger and his action was more smooth and he is striding out nice but to win a race was a little surprising,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the Class Three Wistaria Handicap (1,650m), star jockey Zac Purton admitted he is concerned about his ride Right Honourable’s far from ideal record when stepping out of Class Three company.
The Richard Gibson-trained galloper produced an impressive swooping performance to win his last start at Happy Valley with Purton on board but will face much stiffer opposition on Wednesday.
Purton warned that he was a horse who needed the run of the race to allow him to produce the big finishes.
“Last time he drew a gate, he had a tempo to suit, everything fell into place for him that night and he was obviously able to go on and do it in good fashion,” he said.
“But he’s a type of horse that can be quite inconsistent so whether he can produce it again, we will just have to wait and see.”
The four-year-old has had 14 starts in Class Three company for a best finish of third, while he has managed to win twice when dropping down to Class Four.
“It’s obviously a concerning stat, it’s something to worry about,” Purton said. “He’s a horse that goes well fresh and he is early in his preparation so hopefully this is the right time for him to show us his best in this grade.”