What travel restrictions will be in place for Korea in September and Dubai in March? They will likely decide the future of Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s dirt specialist Kings Shield.
The talented five-year-old grows a leg on the surface and proved it again at Sha Tin on Wednesday night with a dominant victory in the Class Two Egret Handicap (1,650m).
Leading jockey Zac Purton took Kings Shield straight to the front and that’s where the odds-on favourite stayed, beating Buddies by two-and-a-half lengths with Raging Blitzkrieg a further length-and-a-half back in third.
With limited options on the all-weather track in Hong Kong – there is only one more Class Two over 1,200m left this season and nothing at all for horses rated over 105 – it means Lor is forced to look overseas for targets.
In a normal year that would be fine, but with the Covid-19 pandemic shutting down borders – and racing – in many countries, it is impossible to map out a plan with any certainty.
The Korea Cup (1,800m) in Seoul in September and the Group Two Godolphin Mile in Dubai next year look like ideal targets on paper, but the trainer will just have to wait and see.
“We’ve raced him on the turf already and he’s just so-so, he can close but he’s not good enough for the top level,” Lor said. “On the dirt, he’s a different horse. He’s much better.
“Maybe I will give him one more run this season. I need to talk to the owner first, but we’re running out of options.
“Korea, they have a dirt race, and then Dubai. At this moment, with the virus, we don’t know if we will be able to travel for any of them, so we will have to wait and see.
“I will have to find out what rating he gets to see what the options are from there.”
It was the middle peg of a treble for Purton, who also tasted success on Coolceleb in the opener and Caspar Fownes’ Enfolding in the last race.
The Australian now takes a 126-123 lead over rival Joao Moreira in the fight for the jockeys’ championship after the Brazilian sat out the meeting through suspension.
But Purton wasn’t the only jockey to secure three victories on the night with Karis Teetan following suit, booting home an unlikely treble for Tony Cruz.
While it is no surprise to see Cruz in the winner’s circle, it was the first time he’d had a winner on the dirt in over 14 months.
Since King Genki won on March 10 last year, the Hong Kong legend had gone 65 runs without a victory on the surface, before rattling off three in a row. When it rains, it pours.
Beauty Loyal kicked off the running treble, storming over the top of his rivals in the sixth race.
The appropriately named Party Everyday kept the good times rolling in the Class Four Spoonbill Handicap (1,650m), breaking his Hong Kong maiden in the process, before California Concord capped things off with a smart performance in the eight event.
The trio did more than just break Cruz’s drought on the dirt, it lifted him to 51 wins, equal with Francis Lui Kin-wai in second place in the battle for the trainers’ title, just six behind Ricky Yiu Poon-fai.
It certainly adds some intrigue to that contest with just 13 meetings remaining in the campaign.
Benno Yung Tin-pang was the only other trainer to collect multiple winners on the nine-race card, with Coolceleb and Striking Mr C (Derek Leung Ka-chun) taking him to 20 for the term.
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