After a week in which he lost one four-year-old series contender, Frankie Lor Fu-chuen came home from Sunday’s Sha Tin races with another likely prospect, and possibly two.
With the Hong Kong International Races done and dusted, attention now switches to the four-year-olds and the “Classic Series” consisting of next month’s Classic Mile (1,600m), February’s Classic Cup (1,800m) and culminating with the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) in March.
Lor swept all three of last season’s features, but the stable suffered a huge blow on Tuesday when last year’s Group One Victoria Derby winner Extra Brut died after a freak accident on a walking machine.
On Sunday, the trainer unveiled Decrypt – a European import who finished third in the Group One Irish 2,000 Guineas – and he put in a big run to place behind Perfect Match in the Class Two Lukfook Jewellery Cup (1,400m) and stamp himself as a legitimate challenger in the prestigious series.
“He ran well. He was a little bit fresh, he felt very strong through the early and middle stages in a fast-run race,” jockey Zac Purton said. “It probably just told the last furlong. He came into it like he was going to make a real race of it, but he just gassed out. I thought overall it was a good effort.”
It was a terrific start to his four-year-old series campaign as far as Lor was concerned.
“I’m very happy with him. After this race he should be much improved. If he can settle in his races, then 1,600m and 1,800m will be no problem,” Lor said. “I think we’ll give him one more run on January 5, it’s also 1,400m.”
The winner of the race, Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Perfect Match, is another potential Classic Mile contestant as his rating will approach 90 after the win, all but assuring him a start in the HK$10 million feature, should connections want to go down that path.
The only question is whether he will run out a strong 1,600m. Perfect Match is four-from-five at 1,400m, but is yet to place in two runs beyond that trip.
“I’m thinking about whether I should run him or not,” Shum said. “He’s good at 1,400m but 1,600m might just be too far. I will talk to the owner and the jockey.”
Alexis Badel – the man described as the “James Bond of racing” by fellow jockey Karis Teetan – was a perfect match for the gelding on Sunday and has faith he can handle the step up in distance.
“I know this horse very well and it was good to have the opportunity to ride him with a light weight in Class Two with a good draw. Everything happened perfectly,” he said.
“I hope [he can run 1,600m] – that is what we are going to try. It’s not necessary to put pressure on him in the early part of a race because he has natural speed, so hopefully he can handle the mile.”
One of the other impressive winners was Lor’s Reliable Team in the last, another who could figure in the four-year-old series.
Reliable Team now has four wins from six starts and proved he is not just a Happy Valley specialist with a bold showing in his first Sha Tin run under the guidance of Purton.
“I think everyone was aware it was his first time racing here and we didn’t know how he would handle it – that’s why I put the yellow [parade ring] hood on – there were a lot of people over there,” Lor said. “He looked OK, he wasn’t too bad walking in the parade ring. I was a little bit worried about the draw but he won well.”
His rating will now jump to the low 80s and while his owner may have eyes on the four-year-old series, Lor wants to give him one more run to see if he will measure up.
“Sometimes you need to see if the horse has the potential or not,” he said. “At this moment he looks OK and he will go up to Class Two. We’ll see how we go.”