Uncertainty surrounds Kings Shield’s next move so Frankie Lor Fu-chuen is just looking to control what he can when his dirt specialist steps out at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The up-and-coming handler has punched well above his weight in his short career to date, but he cannot predict what the future holds in a Covid-19-ravaged world that has all but halted international travel.
In normal circumstances, Kings Shield would be headed to Dubai in March to tackle their dirt features, with a lack of races on the surface in limiting options at home.
While he has entered both Kings Shield and Glorious Artist in the Group Two Godolphin Mile at Meydan on March 6, Lor is only focused on the Class One Egret Handicap (1,650m) after the Jockey Club put the race on for horses looking to get to Dubai.
“It’s not easy [to train a dirt horse in Hong Kong], there are not many races for them,” Lor said.
“Usually we don’t want to buy dirt horses, but we have him now and we can’t change it.
“For the top dirt horses, there isn’t much so we have entered him and Glorious Artist for Dubai [in the Group Two Godolphin Mile].
“We need to see what is happening because we don’t know with the virus. We don’t know if we will be able to go. We have entered with the hope of going.
“They had the entries last month, we should know soon.”
After suffering a colic attack early in his Hong Kong career, Kings Shield has emerged as Hong Kong’s best dirt horse, comfortably winning his last start on the surface by three and three-quarter lengths.
In the seven-horse content, he runs into a familiar rival in Elusive State who flew to Dubai last year to contest the Godolphin Mile before it was called off at the last minute.
Kings Shield comes into the race off a messy Group Three Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m) on turf where he was poleaxed on the turn, but Lor says he has recovered in time.
“He is ready to go, the only thing that worries me is in his last start in the Group Three 1,400m race he had that incident on the turn, he got a little cut but that is OK now,” he said.
“He has very good gate speed, but so does Ricky Yiu [Poon-fai’s] horse [Encore Boy] so we will see what he does when he jumps. We are happy to sit second behind him.”
After arriving in Hong Kong with a rating of 86, Lor tried Kings Shield on the turf for his first seven starts before turning to dirt where he bolted in by four and three-quarter lengths.
Since then, he has reeled off two wins in Class Two over the 1,650m trip on the dirt.
“He already had some good racing under his belt in the UK which was on the dirt and on the turf it wasn’t quite as good,” Lor said of the former John Gosden-trained galloper.
“You can only try them on the turf, which we have done and he is just not very good on it. Put him on the dirt and he’s a different horse. The jockeys all say it is much different between the two.”
Stablemate Glorious Artist jumps from the widest gate in the contest which also includes Red Desert, Encore Boy, Green Luck and Circuit Glory.