Trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen believes the Group One Hong Kong Vase (2,400m) will be the best option for Reliable Team at next month’s Hong Kong International Races after the six-year-old led all the way to win a farcically run Group Two BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2,000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
There have been some slowly run feature races in Hong Kong this season but this contest took it to a whole new level, with the first 1,200m run over five seconds outside standard.
After known front-runner Ka Ying Star was slow away, Derek Leung Ka-chun was able to assume an unopposed lead aboard Reliable Team and he was never headed.
“We were always trying to get him to lead in the race and he got a bit lucky, there was no pressure on us to go too quick so the horse was quite relaxed and he’s very fit,” Leung said.
“Step by step we built the speed up. He responded very well and I think we were very lucky. The other horses didn’t give us any pressure, so we saved some strength for the last [400m]. I think 2,400m will be even better for him.”
Lor admitted he’s unsure how Reliable Team will go against the might of the Japanese and any other overseas raiders that converge on international day but he knows there is only one way to find out.
“It’s hard to say but we need to keep the horse in good form and then I think anything can happen,” Lor said after Reliable Team posted his first Group victory after being sent out a $17 chance.
“I didn’t think we could win the race. Ka Ying Star jumped a bit slow so my horse was on his own and could relax a bit through the race.”
Ka Ying Star finished a neck second and favourite Glorious Dragon was third, while the field’s sole Group One winner Panfield finished two and a half lengths off the pace in last place.
“I thought the slow pace definitely got to him, I couldn’t use my horse to go and put pressure on the leader – he’s not a horse like that,” jockey Karis Teetan said of Panfield.
“When Matthew [Chadwick aboard Ka Ying Star] came around and gave me a bit of cover at the 600m they still quickened up and I just thought he couldn’t accelerate again.”
Teetan confirmed Panfield felt fine post race and a decision is imminent as to which race Tony Millard’s Champions & Chater Cup winner tackles on international day, the Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) or the Vase (2,400m).