There are plenty of odd horse names in Hong Kong racing but David Ferraris is certainly not complaining as he debuts yet another with a Pokemon moniker at Sha Tin on Monday.
Blastoise has his first start in the Class Four Uncompromising Integrity 1,000m Handicap, joining the likes of the recently retired Pikachu, in-form three-time winner Charizard, Snorlax and Raichu as “Pokemon” to race for Ferraris.
“I’ve done quite well with them,” he says of horses named after characters in the popular video game. “It’s different syndicates that own them but they are all purchased by one particular guy, [Mr Liu Shun-hong], and they are sold on from there. His kids name all of the horses.”
While Blastoise showed some improvement in the most recent of his two trials, Ferraris knows he is still a work in progress.
“He’s a nice horse but he’s going to need a run or two, maybe over 1,200m or 1,400m he’ll be good but it’s just good to get a run into them before the season closes,” he said.
Ferraris is confident he has winning chances elsewhere on Monday, however, with General Dino returning from a near two-month break to chase a fourth straight win in the Class Three Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup (1,650m) on the dirt.
General Dino has been a revelation since Ferraris switched him to the all-weather track, winning three on the bounce after remaining empty-handed through 24 starts on the turf to begin his Hong Kong career.
He returns to Class Three for the first time in over a year and will be ridden by Karis Teetan from the favourable barrier three.
“He’s very, very gutsy. I don’t believe he will be just a dirt horse, I think he is equally good on the turf – he trialled exceptionally well [on the turf] the other day,” Ferraris said.
“The main thing is he has got a barrier, which is half the battle won because he is an on-speed runner, and he’ll run very well.”
Also coinciding with General Dino’s new-found form was the treating of a lung problem that plagued the horse.
“He just kept spiking in his temperatures throughout the year and we just couldn’t understand [why],” Ferraris said.
“They would give him antibiotics and he would be fine, the temperature would go but a couple of weeks later it would be back again, and there had to be something causing it.
So [the doctor] scanned his lungs and he found two abscesses, which the antibiotics weren’t able to penetrate, so he was put on a drug that tuberculosis patients are put on that penetrates the abscesses and he’s been a different horse ever since.”
Also among Ferraris’ 10 runners on Monday is South African Group One winner Lobo’s Legend, who is slowly coming to hand and could benefit from the extended 85-60 ratings band in the Class Three Sportsmanship 2,000m Handicap after four starts in Class Two.
“I think Class Two would be fine, he just wants a bit further,” Ferraris said of Lobo’s Legend, who has run over 1,400m and 1,600m in Hong Kong.
“This race seemed ideal for him, the 85-60. I think if it was a Class Two over 1,800m or 2,000m, he’d be equally effective, but obviously Class Three is a lot easier and he’ll run very well.
“His last two runs have been promising, all these South African horses need a bit of time. They’re good horses, he’s the only one who was a class above the others so he’s come to hand quicker than the others.”