Manfred Man Ka-leung is officially Dubai dreaming after his born-again sprinter Big Time Baby won his third race of the season at Sha Tin on Wednesday night.
The handler has entered his charge in the Group One Dubai Golden Shaheen (1,200m, dirt) and hopes to gain an invite into the March 28 race on the back of his impressive performance on the all-weather surface in the Class Two Cha Kwo Ling Handicap (1,200m).
The six-year-old was well supported ($3.20) prior to the race and delivered accordingly under jockey Matthew Chadwick.
Going into the race on a rating of 103, options for Big Time Baby on his preferred all-weather surface were already few and far between and they are set to completely dry up now with his rating likely to go near 110.
“The plan is to go to Dubai,” he smiled. “We are still waiting for the invitation. The dirt is better for him, the 1,200m race on the World Cup night.
“When you look at the list of races here, there are no more all-weather track ones, just grass.”
Big Time Baby has struck the form of his life this season, running no worse than fourth in six starts, including second placing’s behind the likes of Aethero and Big Party.
Man said he had not changed anything in his preparation to spark the form reversal.
“Everything is the same, the European horses, normally they don’t mature until they are five-year-olds,” he said.
Man has previously travelled champion sprinter Eagle Regiment to Dubai, where he managed to run third in the Group One Al Quoz Sprint in 2013.
While he raced Eagle Regiment on the turf, Man gained a first-hand look at the famed Meydan dirt surface, which he believes should present no problems for Big Time Baby.
Prior to Big Time Baby’s victory, jockeys’ championship leader Joao Moreira pulled off one of the rides of the season on Righteous Doctrine in the Class Three Lam Tin Handicap (1,800m), giving trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai what he described as a health scare in the process.
The 15-start maiden has found his fair share of traffic in the past and looked all but doomed again on Wednesday night when Moreira found himself near last and caught on the rail as the $2.80 favourite, before extracting himself from a near-impossible position.
“He missed the break, it scared me a lot,” Chang smiled after his five-year-old finally broke through.
“I think he ended up saving a lot of ground in the inside, luckily he got the breaks in the last 200m.
“If there was no room, we were going to be waiting for next time, this horse always seems to be unlucky so it is good to finally get one. He deserved to win one race.”
Meanwhile, trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai has confirmed his stable star Golden Sixty is a likely starter in Sunday’s Classic Cup (1,800m).
The star four-year-old has been in doubt for the past week after suffering from an elevated temperature but Lui confirmed that he has been satisfied with Golden Sixty’s trackwork this week, which culminated in a 1,200m turf gallop at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning.
Golden Sixty moved through his gears under jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, who will again ride on Sunday should he tick a final box on Friday morning.
“Everything has come on well for him, we will gallop on Friday morning again to make sure,” Lui said.
If confirmed as a starter, the son of Medaglia d’Oro is likely to battle stablemate More Than This for favouritism.
Overseas fixed-odds bookmakers have installed More Than This as a $2.25 favourite while Golden Sixty is on the second line of betting at $2.75.
After winning the Classic Mile in dominant fashion with Golden Sixty last month, Lui is in the box seat to go one step closer to sweeping the lucrative four-year-old series.