John Moore has made his opinion of Aethero’s ability very clear but Voyage Warrior’s trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai is confident he takes the best horse into Saturday’s mouth-watering speed battle at Sha Tin.
Hong Kong’s two hottest up-and-coming sprint prospects lock horns for the first time in the Class Two Wo Tik Handicap (1,000m) and Yiu expects his lightning-quick four-year-old to extend his record to four wins from five starts.
“I think my horse has got the best chance,” Yiu said. “Mine’s a four-year-old and [Aethero] is only three, he’s a year older with a similar rating.”
Moore’s Thanks Forever, who handed Voyage Warrior his only loss back in May, is also in the race, but Yiu believes he holds all the aces in the form of star jockey Zac Purton, who was aboard Voyage Warrior, Thanks Forever and Aethero at their last starts.
“He knows all the horses and you need a winning jockey,” the trainer said.
Joao Moreira climbs aboard Aethero for the first time, while Chad Schofield and Thanks Forever team up in another first.
After taking out a trial in blistering style last week, Yiu confirmed Voyage Warrior will race in a tongue tie for the first time as he makes his seasonal debut on Saturday.
“I’ll run him with the tongue tie on for the first time, he trialled well with it on,” Yiu said.
“He proved in the trial that everything is OK with the tongue tie, the main thing is that I hope he can settle more,” Yiu added in reference to that trial, where Voyage Warrior exploded from the blocks, strode to a big lead and saluted by over eight lengths.
The Group One Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) in December is the grand final for both Voyage Warrior and Aethero, however anything short of a win on the weekend could make acquiring the required rating difficult.
Despite that, Yiu declared he has no plan B should Voyage Warrior go under: “Not yet, I’m pretty confident he’ll be very, very close on Saturday.”
Should all go to plan, the 62-year-old suggested the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) on November 17 could be the galloper’s only other run between now and international day.
It would be Voyage Warrior’s first start beyond 1,000m but Yiu can’t see the step-up to six furlongs being an issue.
“We’ll wait and see how he can cope with the 1,200m, but to me I don’t think he will have any problem coming round the bend when he steps up,” he said.
“I think if we can get him up to a rating of more than 100 he should be able to participate in the international sprint.”
Adding even more spice to the contest is Tony Millard’s Refined Treasure, with the five-year-old’s last six runs down the straight netting four wins and two seconds.
Millard has previously stated his desire to race Refined Treasure at Group One level, however the gelding is yet to fire at 1,200m and looks destined to remain a 1,000m specialist.
Of the others, Tony Cruz’s Multimillion is chasing his sixth victory at the course and distance and very rarely performs poorly at his pet trip, however Class Two against this quality of field will likely prove a bridge too far for the honest five-year-old.