Dubai World Cup riches are beckoning for renowned dirt specialist Me Tsui Yu-sak and his top galloper Fight Hero but the understated trainer needs to see improvement to justify the trip.
Fight Hero shocked everyone, including his trainer, when he ran second in the Korea Sprint (1,200m) in September after travelling wide without cover for most the trip on the deep sand, but the performance also opened the possibility of Dubai.
Returning to the races for the first time last month, Fight Hero ran 14 lengths last behind an impressive winner in Rattan in Class One company on the turf but will be much more at home on Wednesday night in a rare all-dirt meeting at Sha Tin.
The seven-year-old will line up in the feature event, the Class Two Penfold Park Handicap (1,200m) against a host of other well credentialed dirt horses.
With a Hong Kong rating of 105, Tsui’s options are limited for his classy gelding, and high-level all-weather races become few and far between.
“We will try to go to Dubai, I’m not 100 per cent sure which race but maybe the [Group One] Golden Shaheen [1,200m],” Tsui had previously told The Post.
“I was surprised, he was happier in Korea than in Hong Kong. He was very quiet, in Hong Kong he is not like that. Maybe the environment was more quiet for him.”
Tsui highlighted this race as a testing point for Fight Hero and his Dubai ambitions.
While all five of Fight Hero’s career wins have come on the all-weather surface, he has been dealt no favours for the run, drawing barrier 11 in the 12 horse field, ensuring jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun will be in a race to secure a spot in running before the turn.
Fight Hero will also match up against Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s consistent galloper Jolly Banner who drops down to Class Two grade for the first time in 18 months.
Despite his last win coming 11 starts ago, the son of Lonhro has been close to the mark on a few occasions and steps back to a happy hunting ground here.
Jolly Banner has had just one start on the all-weather track – almost 1,000 days ago – for a third placing, but has trialled consistently on the surface since.
“He’s been on the dirt once before – it was early in his career and he finished third, he surprised us,” Yiu said.
“With his rating where it is , there aren’t a lot of options for him so we’re going to give him a chance and see how he goes.”
With apprentice Victor Wong Chun booked to ride the Australian import, he will jump from barrier two with just 124 pounds on his back, thanks to a seven-pound claim.
Master trainer John Size will also have a strong hand in the race with his impressive last-start dirt winner Calculation lining up alongside his perennial placegetter Gunnison, who has finished worse than fourth just twice in his 12-start Hong Kong career.
John Moore’s former Group One sprinter Not Listenin’tome will continue his fall through the grades.
He will race on dirt for the first time since his attempt at the Group One Golden Shaheen two years ago when he finished seventh.