When Galaxy Witness’ fifth appearance before a judge of the racing variety produced a surprising verdict, it was Matthew Chadwick’s cross-examination of the Caspar Fownes-trained favourite that condemned one of Hong Kong’s rising stars to his first defeat.
At Sha Tin on Sunday, through a combination of medical conditions and prior engagements for three of his peers, Chadwick gets an improbable opportunity to play a key role in the first chapter of what Fownes hopes is a Galaxy Witness redemption story that includes some tales of Classic Series glory.
For just as Fownes had not envisaged seeing Galaxy Witness lose his unbeaten record in June’s Class Two Mount Cameron Handicap (1,600m), the four-time champion trainer had not expected booking Chadwick for his four-year-old horse’s eventual return.
Fownes could not call upon Joao Moreira, who had partnered Galaxy Witness in each of his first five races, because the Magic Man is out of action due to a hip injury.
Also feeling under the weather is Karis Teetan, while Vincent Ho Chak-yiu had committed to riding Apache Pass in the card-closing Class Two Swan Handicap (1,400m).
Last month, Chadwick lamented he was finding good rides ‘tough, if not tougher’ to come by despite picking up last season’s Tony Cruz Award as Hong Kong’s leading local jockey with 55 victories.
This weekend, opportunity knocks for Chadwick, whose book of nine Sha Tin assignments includes not only Galaxy Witness in the finale but also undefeated Circuit Nine in the penultimate event, the Class Three Spoonbill Handicap (1,400m).
“Obviously, there are more rides available, and I’ve got better rides than the past few meetings. It’s been a bit hard to benefit on some occasions because it happened suddenly for both [Moreira and Teetan], and a lot of my rides were planned already. But certainly, it’s nice to pick up a few rides,” said Chadwick, who has posted four wins this term.
“Galaxy Witness is definitely a horse with ability. He’s shown that. His trial was nice. He went through the line quite comfortably even though it was a bad track on that day. He gets in well in the weights, and it’s an interesting race. He’s definitely got some upside. I’m looking forward to riding him.”
Chadwick steered Circuit Nine to both of his Griffin successes last season, and the rider is not too concerned by what he has seen the lightly raced Tony Cruz-prepared gelding deliver in his four trials, particularly in his two Conghua heats last month.
“He trialled both times on the dirt, but he’s not a dirt horse, so I wouldn’t read too much into that. Tony’s horses can look unimpressive at the trials sometimes, but they always seem to come on. I’m sure that’ll be the case here,” Chadwick said.
Circuit Nine was unstoppable last season! 💥— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) October 6, 2022
The unbeaten son of Caravaggio returns this Sunday for his first taste of Class 3 racing at Sha Tin... @mattLchadwixk | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/xCcH9cCH0j
“The Griffin form isn’t that strong, but I was very happy with the way he handled himself from his first start in May to his second start three weeks later.
“Whether he’s mentally ready for stepping up in grade and ready for the physicality and pressure of Class Three, we’ll only know on the weekend.
“But ability wise, Class Three shouldn’t be a problem for him. If he’s ready, I believe he’s got the turn of foot to show his presence in the race.”
On Sunday, before jumping aboard Circuit Nine and Galaxy Witness, Chadwick will ride Run The Table, Starry Night, M M Johnny, Triumphant Return, Pegasus General, Red Impact and Lucky Fun.