Jockey Matthew Poon admits he was surprised by the dramatic last-to-first victory the David Hall-trained Kirov produced last month, but says there is no reason the inconsistent galloper cannot go on with it.

Hampered by a wide barrier, Poon said he was forced to try something different on the gelding by going back to last during the first all-weather track race of the season.

The wide draw could prove to have been a blessing in disguise, with Poon saying it adds versatility to the horse in the way he could be ridden, depending on what circumstances arise.

Poon has been dealt a much more favourable draw this time around, with Kirov jumping from barrier three in the Class Four Tai Ho Handicap (1,200m) on Saturday.

“Last time he drew a little bit wide and in that race there was heaps of speed so we tried to ride him a little bit quiet and see if he could finish off, we were a little bit surprised how he finished off quite strongly,” he said.

Still with his five-pound apprentice claim, Poon said he was always learning the intricacies of racing on the all-weather track, in particular how to judge the right speed in the races.

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Punters have also found it harder to find the winner on the Sha Tin all-weather track, with a median winning price of $9.7 compared to $7.2 on the grass track.

With Kirov lining up the second biggest horse in the race at a hulking 1,211 pounds, Poon said he was hard to stop once he was able to settle into his action.

“On the dirt track, you don’t know how strong the speed will be and you build up the momentum a little bit, which is important,” he said.


“This time drawing a good barrier, with everything working well, he will still finish strongly. The most important thing with him is his rhythm, because he is a big animal. If he can build up his momentum he can finish off well. ”

Kirov has trialled since his first-up victory, where he was not tested while running behind talented dirt track specialist Ugly Warrior, a hit-out which Poon said he was impressed with.

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“He trialled three times this season, first time was OK, second time was better, then he had a race and a rest with another trial,” he said.

“He feels the same, very healthy and very happy so that is good.”

Meanwhile, trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak will be hoping to build on Ugly Warrior’s formidable dirt track record where he has won four of his five starts so far.

Ugly Warrior has quickly jumped through the grades to his current rating of 87 where he will line up in the Class Two Tsuen Lok Handicap (1,200m).

With Zac Purton winning on the gelding last start, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu will take back the ride as he steps up to Class Two company for the first time.

“With Barrier 11, I will have to work a bit harder for sure, after his trial he should improve a little bit as well,” he said.

“He’s just good at the dirt, it’s not just about how he handles it but it’s about his mind as well when he is on it, he has the top-class horse mentality, so he’s ready.”

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