Some familiar names transfer their talents to the dirt at the Sha Tin all-weather track meeting on Wednesday in the hope of gaining an elusive win.
Duke Wai leads the charge for trainer Paul O’Sullivan in the Class One Silvermine Bay Handicap (1,200m) and is seeking his first victory in a year after a string of consistent efforts.
The six-year-old has finished in the first five in all bar one of his races this season, including when third behind Kurpany on his only dirt start three runs ago.
O’Sullivan is confident that the race will be run to suit and that his six-year-old will be hitting the line strongly.
“He’s always trialled quite solidly on the dirt,” O’Sullivan said. “Quite often on the dirt, particularly in that class of race, there’s a lot of speed and those hard-run races suit him. He’s very consistent and he’s in a position where he’s going to be hard to beat.”
Duke Wai’s latest win in March last year came on the turf in a race in which he unusually made all of the running, but O’Sullivan will be employing his usual tactics this week.
“He wouldn’t have the speed to make the running on the dirt in that class of race,” O’Sullivan said.
“I remember that last win and they just cantered, I thought he was going to win by two but he only won by a head. We’re just hoping there is loads of pace and they get tired late. If he’s going to beat them, it will be late on.”
O’Sullivan also puts a saddle on Apache Pass in the Class Three Kiu Tsui Handicap (1,800m) and his runner is chasing a dirt hat-trick after a couple of impressive wins, with the New Zealander confident a line can be put through his most recent run on the turf.
“He’s fine. He holds his condition well, he’s a gentleman of a horse and easy to do anything with,” O’Sullivan said.
“He went to the Valley last time and he’s probably a far superior dirt horse than what he is going around at the Valley.
“He was about 12 wide turning for home and wasn’t really ridden to instructions but he just needed a run between his last win and his next opportunity on the dirt.”
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O’Sullivan also has a chance of saluting with the luckless Wisdom Patch, who was denied a winning chance when failing to get a run for much of the straight on dirt last time in his first attempt at Class Five level.
He remains in that grade in the Clear Water Bay Handicap (1,200m) and while O’Sullivan regrets missing out last time, he takes solace from the fact his runner is clearly capable of success at this lowly level.
“There was just nothing the jockey could have done last time,” O’Sullivan said. “He drew well and there was two in front of him and it wasn’t run at a great speed and in that kind of race they are not inclined to split up too much.
“It’s a race he possibly should have won but he seems to have trained on the right way, he had a quiet trial the other day and he’ll get his chance. He’s capable of winning in the grade.”