Next weekend’s feature meeting in Korea will mark a significant step forward for Hong Kong racing, with the city to be represented abroad for the first time in over three years.
Hong Kong’s lagging Covid-19 approach has kept its horse population grounded since March 2020, when Elusive State and Big Time Baby travelled to Dubai for the World Cup meeting only to turn around and fly home after the event was cancelled as the pandemic took hold.
Southern Legend’s victory in Singapore’s Kranji Mile in May 2019 was the last time a Hong Kong horse raced overseas, something that is set to change when Kings Shield and Computer Patch step out on the Korean sand on September 4.
The Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained Kings Shield lines up in the Group Three Korea Cup (1,800m) and Jimmy Ting Koon-ho’s Computer Patch the Group Three Korea Sprint (1,200m), with the pair to depart Hong Kong on Saturday evening.
Lor got a first-hand look at the deep Seoul sand when he accompanied Glorious Artist to Korea for the most recent running of the Cup in 2019, a race in which his charge finished fourth.
Kings Shield was also entered for that contest but was unable to travel after requiring colic surgery, with Lor excited to finally see the seven-year-old dirt specialist get his chance in a race that has been dominated by the Japanese.
“He’s a genuine dirt horse and in Hong Kong there’s not much dirt racing for him so he needs to go out to have a look,” Lor said of Kings Shield, who has never raced over further than 1,650m because of the limitations of Hong Kong’s dirt programme.
“The sand is a little bit deeper than Hong Kong and it’s hard to say how he will handle it but he’s a front runner, so I think this will help him in Korea.”
While Lor will remain in Hong Kong and be represented in Korea by his son Lok, Ting will make the trip across to watch his first international runner in action.
Computer Patch will look to follow in the footsteps of the Tony Millard-trained Super Jockey, who won the Korea Sprint in 2016.
“This is my first time sending a horse overseas, so it’s exciting, but we don’t know if the horse can handle the track or not,” Ting said.
“He’s never run on the dirt but he has trialled well on the dirt. His rating is 114, which is a bit high for him in Hong Kong – if he runs in a Group Three, he carries a very heavy weight and the Group Ones are too strong for him.
“That’s why I am giving him a chance to go out and hopefully I can get a win for the owner.”
Matthew Chadwick will ride both horses and believes that while Computer Patch has never run on dirt in Hong Kong, like Kings Shield he will be aided by his ability to race on speed on a track that will produce plenty of kickback.
“What they both have in their favour is that they jump handy and go forward, which seems to be a suitable pattern over there,” Chadwick said.
“It’s the first time I’ll ride Kings Shield and we know Computer Patch is very honest in the higher grades here, so if they can produce their best overseas then their ability isn’t a problem. As long as they handle the track they should be in with a shout.”
Chadwick and Ting will miss the first meeting of the Hong Kong season on September 11 as they will still be in the self-monitoring phase of the city’s quarantine requirements.