Ricky Yiu Poon-Fai admits his first-starter Voyage Warrior could be the best youngster he has had in a long time but knows too well the pitfalls that can afflict inexperienced horses during their first day at the races.
The three-year-old has trialled as well as any unraced horse this season and looks a live chance in the Class Four Pine Tree Hill Handicap (1,000m) on Sunday but will have to replicate that form under race conditions.
“He has trialled like a rocket, it is all natural because we didn’t even ask much of him,” Yiu said of his easy six-length trial victory two weeks ago.
“He is a natural, he jumps quick and he did it so easy. In the last trial I asked the jockey to build him gradually towards the finish and he handled it really well.”
Voyage Warrior won his previous trial by four lengths over well-tried horses, so with a smart horse at his fingertips, Yiu is leaving nothing to chance.
The veteran trainer took the young horse for a race day dummy run, which involved a walk through the parade ring to ensure he is not overawed.
“He is a horse with good temperament, not like a lot of young sprinters who are very nervy, sweating and on their toes all the time,” he said.
“I took him to the parade ring for a little practice and he was just relaxed and professional.
Yiu is also buoyed by Voyage Warrior being dealt barrier 14 for the straight race which will see his horse placed on the favourable outside rail.
“For a young one you need the barrier to help them so it is good,” he said.
Such is his opinion of the horse, jockey Karis Teetan has dropped the ride on last-start winner Joyful Heart to ride Yiu’s charge.
Teetan produced an impressive win on debut for the Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained galloper three weeks ago but was happy to switch rides come Sunday.
“He is actually a very nice horse Joyful Heart and he won very well last start,” Teetan said.
“[Joyful Heart] looks like the danger in the race but my horse has drawn the outside so that should help him too.
“He didn’t know where he was halfway through the race and then for the second half he turned the engine on to win a nice race.
“I confirmed with Ricky that I was on [Voyage Warrior] so I stuck with him.”
After trialling Voyage Warrior in his last two hit-outs, Teetan has been left in no doubt he is ready for the races.
“He has been trialling well, he is a nice little horse and after a few trials I think he is ready to go to the races,” he said.
“He knows a little bit, he is a quick learner because after each trial he is getting better.
“In the trials he showed speed but it is different going to the races because in the trial he can just get away from them and get a roll on.”
While Voyage Warrior’s trials have been impressive, he would not be the first to be beaten on debut after struggling under race conditions.
The likes of Big Party and King’s Trooper have been comprehensively beaten on debut after blistering trials.