Francis Lui Kin-wai doesn’t know if Glorious Dragon can challenge the might of the Japanese in the Group One QE II Cup on April 25, but the talented grey will make his presence felt if his tough victory in Monday’s Class One The Peak Handicap (2,000m) is anything to go by.
Despite having a lot go against him – pace, luck in running and a disadvantage at the weights – class prevailed as Matthew Poon Ming-fai lifted the six-year-old home to defeat Butterfield and Helene Leadingstar.
The manner of the win suggests Glorious Dragon has to be considered among Hong Kong’s leading hopes in the HK$25 million feature.
None of his opponents in Monday’s race will provide a significant threat but Tony Cruz’s star duo of reigning Horse of the Year Exultant and Furore are set to enter the fray against a strong Japanese team headlined by Daring Tact, Loves Only You and Kiseki.
Glorious Dragon’s trainer confirmed he will head towards the QE II but won’t put a ceiling on what he’s capable of.
“I don’t know if we can match the Japanese horses – I only got the horse this season so I don’t know how much more he can improve but everything is positive,” Lui said. “I think he’s gone to another level – he’s got a good fighting heart.”
Glorious Dragon has flourished into a top-line galloper this campaign, winning the Group Three Centenary Vase in January while running fourth in the Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup in February and he showed his quality on Monday.
Carrying 131 pounds and giving weight to all his rivals, the son of Teofilo went back early and over-raced as the veteran Time Warp set a slow pace up front.
Things only got worse on the turn when the field bunched up and Poon had nowhere to go before being squeezed between Helene Leadingstar and Ho Ho Khan when searching for a run with 250m to go.
Despite these inconveniences, Glorious Dragon rallied under pressure to salute by a length.
“He didn’t really travel comfortably because there wasn’t much speed but he’s got a big heart and he had to fight his way between two horses and he felt very strong doing that,” Poon said. “He’s very fit and he wants to win. I think he’s got some class.”
Lui revealed that he and Poon concocted a plan to settle further forward in transit, but that was shelved when Glorious Dragon was the slowest away.
“Everybody knew the pace was going to be slow and he had to carry that weight so before the race we discussed trying to be more positive and settle midfield, but when he jumped he was just a bit slow,” Lui said. “It was a big effort to win from where he was.”