A Hong Kong trip has been months in the making for Japanese galloper Win Bright and jockey Masami Matsuoka is hoping to strike while the iron is hot after back-to-back wins at home.
Connections were eyeing off a start at the Longines Hong Kong International Races last year, but the grey’s form had tapered off so they decided to give it a miss.
But since then he has saluted at Group Three and Group Two level – most recently in the Nakayama Kinen – putting Sunday’s FWD QE II Cup back on the agenda.
“This has been a target for him since last year because his plan was to come to Hong Kong in December but his condition at that time was not good enough so the trip was off,” Matsuoka said. “This is the main target for him.”
Japanese horses have a strong record in the HK$25 million contest having won on four occasions (Eishin Preston in 2002 and 2003, Rulership in 2012 and Neorealism in 2017), but the jockey is slightly concerned about the conditions he is facing.
“He looked well. I was a bit worried about the humidity here because he likes racing in the cooler part of the year but he has settled in well,” Matsuoka said.
“He is versatile when it comes to tactics and he will cope with any pace and there is no issue about the 2,000m trip because he has already won at that distance.”
WIN BRIGHT WINS G2 NAKAYAMA KINEN— World Horse Racing (@WHR) February 24, 2019
A thrilling finish as Masami Matsuoka lifts home Win Bright to hand sire Stay Gold his 100th Group winner @DubaiWorldCup bound Suave Richard & Deidre finished 4th & 6th#JRA #競馬 #ウインブライトpic.twitter.com/YWp7kPB29O
The 34-year-old jockey has amassed a total of 813 Japan Racing Association wins, with a host of Group One victories, but this is the first time he will compete in Hong Kong.
“I’m looking forward to racing here, I’ve been to Singapore and many other countries for training but racing here will be something special,” he said.
Matsuoka was an interested onlooker on Tuesday morning as the Yoshihiro Hatekeyama-trained five-year-old cantered two easy laps of the all-weather track, but he will be aboard on Wednesday morning for a gallop.
The five international horses involved in the second section of trackwork were forced to wait for over an hour beyond their expected start time when the barrier trial session went longer than planned.
In the end, connections of Deirdre decided to remain within the quarantine facilities to try and maintain her routine, while Viddora’s team opted to canter on the all-weather track after originally planning to gallop on the turf.
It also affected Chairman’s Sprint Prize contestant Nac Venus, who worked easily for one lap of the dirt.
“She had to wait for a long time in the trotting ring before her work, which upset our training plans and we had to change to plan B,” travelling head lad Tomoki Nagai said.
The final international horse taking part in Champions Day – gun Australian sprinter Santa Ana Lane – arrived in Hong Kong late on Monday night.
“The horse has settled in well. Obviously we’ll be monitoring him closely over the next 24 hours but all looks to be fine,” stable representative Sam Freedman said.
“He’ll have a couple of easy days before a light workout later in the week. He’s the perfect candidate to travel.”