David Hall knows Ho Ho Khan will have to produce something special to win Sunday’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) but his faith in his honest four-year-old has not wavered.
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen and John Size saddle up half the field, including the clear top three in the market in Lor’s Dark Dream and Furore and Size’s Waikuku, but Hall left Thursday’s barrier draw knowing there is still hope for the other trainers.
“It was probably a little bit pleasing for the opposition to see Waikuku draw the outside gate,” Hall said about the red-hot rising star, who enters the race on the back of four straight wins.
“They have got a bit of a headache to work out, but he is an adaptable horse, he can be up the front or out the back.”
Hall didn’t have it all his own way, with Ho Ho Khan drawing barrier 10, but the Australian isn’t losing any sleep after the colt settled midfield or worse in his three wins this season.
“From my point of view, I don’t think I could take advantage of an inside gate even if he got one so 10 is probably OK,” he said.
Mission Tycoon wins the Classic Cup at 91-1! Frankie Lor saddles three of the first four - just as in the Classic Mile - but hot favourite Dark Dream can never quite get to the grips with Derek Leung's all-the-way winner. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/NIQqDn0iq5— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 17, 2019
“He will probably be in the second half of the field with a bit of cover, hopefully out of trouble and get his momentum at the right time.”
James McDonald jets in to take the ride and will arrive in Hong Kong in top form after landing two winners at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
After three consecutive wins in Class Two and Three over 1,800m, Ho Ho Khan finished seventh in the Classic Cup after finding himself second last in a race where horses struggled to take ground off the leaders.
However, Hall is quick to forgive that run and expects his horse to handle the step-up to 2,000m nicely.
“Even though his finishing place in the Classic Cup doesn’t read that well on paper, I think his performance was still a little bit better than it looks so he hasn’t put a foot wrong and is a worthy runner in the race,” Hall said.
“I am certainly not worried about the 2,000m, whether he is as strong a chance as the favourites, it’s a bit of an ask, but he is a funny little horse who has just kept on improving since he’s been here and done everything asked of him.”
Ho Ho Khan arrived in Hong Kong from New Zealand with only one win to his name and a price tag that pales in comparison to some of his rivals on Sunday, but has continued to step-up to the plate.
“The thing that caught my eye was that he was lightly raced and didn’t have any blinkers on but he ran third to an All Too Hard horse called Demonetization that they were all offering big money for and talking about being a Guineas horse, so I thought that was a strong form line,” Hall said.
“For his money I thought it was a very good value buy. I suppose he has [surprised me] a little bit, you are always hopeful when you step-up in distance that they are going to do something a little bit better. “We were all thinking before his first run this time in that he would shine when he got to 1,800m and 2,000m and he is doing that.”