Connections of Group One-winning colt Summer Passage will resist the temptation of a lucrative stud career and race on in Hong Kong this season.
The well-bred son of Snitzel, who sold for A$800,000 (HK$4.4 million) as a yearling in Australia, struggled in his only two Hong Kong starts last season, running a combined 23 lengths off the pace at Sha Tin.
Trainer Paul O’Sullivan admitted it was a challenge training the highly strung colt, but hoped a change of scenery could have the desired effect in calming down his star import.
He will line up in the Class Two Chai Wan Kok Handicap (1,200m) for his first start of the season when Happy Valley hosts its first and only Sunday meeting of the year this weekend, giving Sha Tin a well-earned break for the winter grass to come through.
“He trialled well here [Happy Valley], so I put him here because he has just got to learn to switch off and the speed here is normally 100 per cent quick,” O’Sullivan said.
“It is a very difficult place to race a stallion here, there are very few of them here. He has got a fantastic pedigree and he’s a Group One winner.
“If he can come back to the form that he had in Australia and New Zealand, he will be very competitive.”
The now four-year-old enjoyed stellar two- and three-year-old seasons in New Zealand and Australia where he was able to win the Group One Sistema Stakes at Ellerslie and run second in the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick.
“He could easily be at stud somewhere now with what he’s done so we will try to avoid that if we can,” O’Sullivan said of the possibility of gelding Summer Passage in an attempt to try and calm down his racing manners.
Such is the potential of his colt, O’Sullivan has nominated him for the Longines Hong Kong Sprint in December, but admits he is a long way off reaching that level.
“It’s a throw at the stumps,” he laughed.
Veteran jockey Douglas Whyte has been booked for the ride and he will get to jump from the favourable barrier one as O’Sullivan and connections hope for a fresh start to the horse’s Hong Kong career.
“He is going to be a very interesting runner, even I don’t know how he will go,” he said.
Summer Passage’s first and only Happy Valley hit-out earlier this month was eye-catching – he was taken back before running on strongly to win the trial, giving O’Sullivan hope he had turned a corner.
“We’ve ridden him cold and he’s switching off very well so he’s going to be an interesting runner,” he said.
The race includes John Size’s highly touted Gunnison who came to Hong Kong as an undefeated two-year-old in Australia where he won the Group Two Todman Stakes at Randwick.
Size’s four-year-old will have the advantage of already having a start this season where he was able to run on strongly from the back of the field to finish fourth at Happy Valley two weeks ago.
Jockey Umberto Rispoli and trainer Caspar Fownes will also be out for redemption in the race with Cheerfuljet, who was beaten in a photo finish earlier this month despite being ahead before and after the finishing post.