Chris So Wai-yin hit pay dirt when he switched Super Win Dragon from Sha Tin’s turf track to its all-weather circuit because tennis players are not the only stars who can rise in class away from grass.
Class Two Salisbury Handicap (1,200m) runner Super Win Dragon, one of four last-start victors So is set to saddle at Sha Tin on Sunday, is becoming to Hong Kong racing in the 2020s what Thomas Muster was to international tennis in the 1990s.
Muster won the 1995 French Open at Roland Garros and ascended the summit of the ATP Tour rankings on the back of his 40 clay-court titles, but he won only seven matches on grass and none at the All-England Club, exiting Wimbledon without a victory four times before conceding lawn tennis was not meant for him.
In February, Super Win Dragon failed to beat a horse in a Class Four turf event. Since then, the five-year-old import from Australia has won three dirt contests – one Class Four and two Class Threes – to improve his overall all-weather numbers to three victories, three minor placings and no finishes worse than one fifth in 11 attempts.
“In the beginning, the horse wasn’t mature, and he travelled very keenly, but we found out from a trial on the dirt that he seemed good on it,” said So, who received Super Win Dragon from Australian handler Kelly Schweida following the galloper formerly known as Ready To Bolt’s two triumphs in Queensland.
“Now we know he’s really good on the dirt, we don’t have to think too much any more. Even over the dirt 1,650m he went close to winning, but he was just a bit weak in the last 100m. That’s why we’ve stuck to the dirt 1,200m for each of his past five runs.”
Three wins and two runner-up finishes have resulted in Super Win Dragon’s rating soaring from 54 to 81, but So thinks he is a major player carrying 115 pounds on his first Class Two appearance.
“He’s still in really good form. He’s very sound, very fit. You saw his last run, he just went at the 150m. His turn of foot is really strong,” said So, who has booked Matthew Chadwick to steer Super Win Dragon because his regular rider, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, has not ridden below 116 pounds this season.
However, So has engaged Ho to ride Magic Toronado on his Hong Kong debut in the Class Three Peninsula Golden Jubilee Challenge Cup (1,000m), he has booked Hugh Bowman to replace Zac Purton on Smart Leader in the Class Four Carnarvon Handicap (1,200m), and he has retained Angus Chung Yik-lai aboard Young Victory in the Class Four Mody Handicap (1,400m).
Magic Toronado’s owner, Jason Tam Siu-keung, moved the three-time winner in Australia, where he was called Hostwin Toronado, from Michael Costa to So after Costa relocated to the United Arab Emirates.
Smart Leader won a Class Five dash by three lengths from the inside barrier four weeks ago, and his impost drops 11 pounds as he returns to Class Four after snapping his 28-start losing sequence.
Young Victory benefited from Chung’s claim to win a Class Four event on November 6, the Sha Tin card on which So prepared three of the first four winners.
“I’m not sure about Magic Toronado, but he should run a good race,” said So, who is seventh in the trainers’ premiership with 12 victories.
“Smart Leader is getting old, but I think he can win in Class Four. I need a good jockey to
handle him because he’s not an easy horse to control around a bend. Every time at a bend he hangs out very badly.
“Last time, I think I made the right decision to put the claimer on Young Victory. Last time, I think the 10 pounds was the most important factor. So this time, I’ve done the same. Angus is doing well.”
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