Trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak has issued a warning to his Korea Sprint (1,200m) rivals, saying Ugly Warrior has flourished since leaving the confined surroundings of Sha Tin.
The lightly raced five-year-old faces the toughest task of his career this weekend when he steps up to Korean Group One level, but an optimistic Tsui said anything is possible when dealing with the bottomless Seoul sand track which has swallowed the hopes of many talented horses in the past.
“He looked more quiet and more steady than he does at Sha Tin,” Tsui said after a slow piece of work from Ugly Warrior in the build up to Sunday’s race.
“I think the environment here makes him more stable because at Sha Tin, his head is often going up, down, up, down with every canter but I see here he is very quiet and very concentrated. In the stables, when he is in his box, he is very quiet as well.”
The task could become harder for Tsui with a downpour of rain forecast as Typhoon Lingling bears down on the region.
The category three storm is expected to dump up to 170mm of rain as well as producing strong winds and thunderstorms on Saturday.
With a secondary meeting scheduled at the track on Saturday, officials have been sent scrambling trying to find alternatives to save the surface for Sunday’s main event should the storm dump a huge amount of rain.
As it stands, Sunday’s meeting is not in doubt.
Tsui said Korea’s first-class quarantine facility meant Ugly Warrior, along with Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Korea Cup (1,800m) hopeful Glorious Artist, could move easily from their stables to the track.
After completing his last gallop earlier in the week, Ugly Warrior has continued to impress Tsui with his slow work and will have a final hit-out on Saturday morning under jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu.
“He is moving very smoothly, step by step is very good. Sometimes in Hong Kong he can get a little bit keen over 100m then switch off, where here, all the way up the straight he can go the same speed,” Tsui said.
“Maybe the track being deep has made him more quiet. He is a very, very smart horse because when it is not safe for him or even when he is on the little track, he goes careful on himself.”
Of the local contingent, Tsui believes Blue Chipper presents the main danger with the four-year-old defeated just once in his seven-start career.
Challengers have also come from the United States, the United Kingdom and France to compete for the 70,000,000 Korean won (HK$3.7 million) first prize.
Tsui knows what it takes to be competitive in the race, with his former charge Fight Hero running an admirable second last year after being posted wide for most of the trip.
When pressed on anything he had learned from taking Fight Hero to the brink of glory, the 58-year-old said there was only so much he could do in a short space of time if the horse does not take to the deep sand.
“It depends on whether the horse takes to the track or not, I cannot change the horse if he is not happy with the track,” he said.