The latest Queensland Derby winner has stepped out in Hong Kong for the first time, hoping to travel a well-worn path towards Hong Kong Derby glory.
Dark Dream was given a soft 1,200m trial at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning under a hold from champion jockey Zac Purton.
It was his first hit-out since his win in Australia in June as trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen attempts to plot a winning course for his star import.
The Group One Queensland Derby (2,200m) has proven to be a happy hunting ground for Hong Kong trainers, with the previous two winners before Dark Dream – Ruthven and Eagle Way – being snapped up at large sums.
While both Eagle Way and Ruthven did not manage to win the HK$18 million Hong Kong Derby, Lor is hoping to break through for what would be the biggest win of his short career to date.
Coming to Hong Kong with a rating of 91, Lor conceded it has been difficult finding suitable races for his star gelding as he attempts to walk the fine line of giving his horse sufficient race fitness and keeping him fresh at the same time.
“At this stage because it is only his first trial, I will maybe give him two more and then I can find a race for him,” he said. “Because his rating is so high, it is hard to find the right one for him.”
While many horses struggle when they arrive in Hong Kong due to the busy nature of Sha Tin along with the heat, Lor said Dark Dream had settled in well.
“In the mornings, he is very quiet and relaxed, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for him,” he said.
With Purton set to be in demand, the Australian confirmed he had made no commitment to Lor or the connections of Dark Dream in his quest to find another Derby winner after his victory in 2015 on Luger.
“He will show me if he is worth riding going forward,” Purton said. “He went OK, it was only his first trial and he is a stayer so we were not expecting much and he didn’t show much so we got what we expected.”
The Caspar Fownes-trained Southern Legend also returned in good order as he begins his path towards the Longines Hong Kong Mile in December.
“This trial was very pleasing, it was just a very easy day out. He will have a serious hit-out in a trial next Friday eight or nine days before his race [in the Jockey Club Mile],” Fownes said.
“He is a strong, heavy horse so it will clear the pipes out for him. Hopefully we get a good gate on the day and I would be disappointed if he’s not first four in the next race.”