Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s Voyage Warrior heads to Happy Valley on Wednesday night looking to arrest a ratings slide that has spanned 13 races across more than 12 months and leaves the six-year-old on a mark 21 points below his peak of 120.
The gelded son of Declaration Of War rocketed from a rating of 105 to 120 with victory in the Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m) in April last year, a race in which he left the likes of Hot King Prawn, Mr Stunning and D B Pin in his wake to salute as a $24 chance.
Voyage Warrior has since competed four times at the top level for a best return of fourth – first in January’s Centenary Sprint Cup when he was two lengths behind Hot King Prawn and then in April’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize – as well as lining up in a further seven Group contests and four Class Ones.
He is yet to place again since his Sprint Cup victory and Yiu has proven he is more than willing to experiment with his charge to help him rediscover something even close to his best.
After Group failures over five and six furlongs to begin the 2021-22 campaign, Voyage Warrior stepped down to Class One and up to 1,400m – only his second career run over seven furlongs – and showed enough in a two-and-three-quarter-length seventh behind Lucky Express in the Panasonic Cup to prompt Yiu to run him over a mile for the first time.
The result was a five-length 10th behind Silver Express in the Class One Chevalier Cup on November 28, an effort that sent Yiu back to the drawing board and saw him come up with Wednesday night’s Class Two Fort Handicap (1,000m) as his galloper’s next task.
It will be Voyage Warrior’s first appearance at the tight-turning city circuit and first run in Class Two since February last year, however he returns to a trip he has had plenty of success at in the past.
The speedster made a barnstorming start to his career down the Sha Tin straight, winning three times from four starts, all at $1.50 or less, as he climbed his way through the grades and into Class Two.
In Class Two Voyage Warrior has won one of his two 1,000m starts, with that victory seeing him storm to a three-length win under Joao Moreira as a $3.30 favourite on New Year’s Day last year.
On that occasion Voyage Warrior carried 125 pounds and this time around he will lump 128 thanks to Victor Wong Chun’s five-pound claim, with the pair to jump from gate seven.
The field features a string of Valley short-track specialists, with Kurpany, We The South, Keep You Warm and Harmony Fire among those boasting multiple victories at the course and distance.
Wong could find himself in a speed battle aboard Voyage Warrior in a hot race but with We The South and Keep You Warm also likely to be pushing forward from lower draws, it may be in his best interests to take a sit.