Over a year after becoming the most expensive horse ever sold at a Hong Kong International Sale, Circuit Number One will finally make it to the racetrack at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
It’s been anything but smooth sailing from that record-breaking night in March last year to his long-awaited debut, with the horse finishing last in his first four trials and also undergoing a stable change from John Moore to Tony Cruz.
The HK$11 million purchase steps out in the Class Four To Kwa Wan Handicap (1,650m), with Matthew Chadwick to ride the son of Holy Roman Emperor, who is the half-brother to 2017 Epsom Derby winner Wings Of Eagles.
After joining Moore’s stable on the trainer’s 68th birthday, the veteran handler made it clear then that the horse would be held back until this season with March’s Derby in mind, but things just didn’t click for the gelding.
The four-year-old finished last of seven in his first barrier trial and soon after was transferred to the care of Cruz by owners Cheung Kwok-keung, Cheung Kwok-ping and Ho Yin-sang.
But things got worse before they got better, with Circuit Number One finishing 21 lengths last in his second trial and 19 lengths off the winner at his third attempt.
After another long last in hit-out number four – this time by 18 lengths – Cruz opted to take the horse to Conghua towards the end of last year and there was improvement when he trialled on return, with Circuit Number One finishing within three-and-a-half lengths of winner Lightning Steed.
He has remained up and down in four further trials, finishing eight lengths behind Derby runner Ka Ying Star over 1,700m at Happy Valley and fifth on the all-weather track in his most recent two efforts.
Just what Circuit Number One will deliver when he steps out for the first time under race conditions on Wednesday night is a mystery and it is a Moore galloper who shapes as one of the leading hopes in the race.
Happy Warrior enters the race in some strong form at the course and distance, delivering a win and four seconds in his last six starts, all which have been over the Valley mile.
Zac Purton is again in the saddle after partnering the five-year-old at his last three starts, which have netted a win and two seconds, and the pair jump from barrier eight.
One thing working in Circuit Number One’s favour is he has drawn nicely with barrier three and there doesn’t look to be a great deal of depth in the race.
South African jockey Aldo Domeyer has his first ride in Hong Kong after recently arriving in the city, teaming up with the Tony Millard-trained C P Power.
C P Power has drawn barrier four and that could be crucial to his chances after the six-year-old saluted from the same gate two starts ago before struggling throughout to finish 12th from barrier 11 last time out.
Millard has thrown his support behind his countryman early, with all three of Domeyer’s rides coming from the trainer.