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Francis Lui admits he wasn’t expecting recruit Cordyceps Six to run into Lucky Sweynesse

Cordyceps Six’s new trainer, Francis Lui Kin-wai, did not expect his recruit to face Lucky Sweynesse in his Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m) title defence and thinks the HK$5 million Hong Kong Speed Series bonus winner is the one to beat on Sunday despite the woeful record of top-weighted gallopers in the event.

“Manfred Man’s horse is too good, I think. It’s only a Group Three race. I didn’t expect he’d run this race. Anyway, that’s their choice,” Lui said ahead of Lucky Sweynesse lugging 135 pounds – 18 pounds more than Cordyceps Six – in one of this weekend’s two black-type contests on this season’s first twilight card.

Jockey Club handicappers assigned the minimum Sha Tin Vase impost of 115 pounds to Cordyceps Six. However, Lui’s title holder will carry 117 pounds because his new rider, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, has informed stewards he will put up two pounds in additional weight.

Ho saw the backside of Cordyceps Six in last term’s Sha Tin Vase when the then Richard Gibson-trained and Alexis Badel-ridden speedster beat Nervous Witness by a neck, with Ho’s mount, Duke Wai, four and three-quarter lengths off the pace and last but one past the post.

Cordyceps Six raced one pound outside the handicap when he won last year’s Sha Tin Vase. The presence of 130-rated superstar Lucky Sweynesse in this year’s edition means the four-year-old galloper – who placed fourth in the Classic Mile seven weeks after finishing seventh in the Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) – will compete, accounting for overweight, four pounds wrong on Sunday.

Lui – under whose watchful eye Cordyceps Six has taken part in one trial, placing third behind Sha Tin Vase opponent Victor The Winner – is optimistic the son of Star Turn can exceed his career-high rating of 112, which is four points above his current mark.

“He trialled well. His trial showed he’s fresh. I hope he can still improve. I have to see how he runs this weekend,” said Lui of Cordyceps Six, one of five Sha Tin Vase competitors racing outside the handicap.

That five-eighths of the Sha Tin Vase field are, in the eyes of Jockey Club handicappers, weighted not to win should present Lucky Sweynesse with an excellent opportunity to become only the third top-weighted starter to win the event in its past 14 editions.

Captain Sweet lugged 131 pounds to his 2012 Sha Tin Vase success – he became the top weight when Jockey Club stewards scratched Leading City and Rich Unicorn two days before the contest – and Little Giant carried 133 pounds to his victory in the 2019 renewal.

Only Beauty Generation has won eight races in a Hong Kong season. Lucky Sweynesse will join the two-time Horse of the Year if he triumphs in the Sha Tin Vase from gate three under Zac Purton.

The Sha Tin Vase will be Lucky Sweynesse’s 10th start this term. Man’s best-ever galloper has won seven of nine events during his four-year-old campaign, including his latest five contests, and 57 days is the New Zealand-bred sprinter’s longest gap between runs since he burst onto the scene in February 2022.

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