Pierre Ng Pang-chi is hopeful a light weight can be a “big help” for Duke Wai as he takes on superstar sprinter Lucky Sweynesse in Sunday’s Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m) at Sha Tin.
A nine-time winner from 45 appearances, the eight-year-old swapped the Sha Tin turf for the testing Seoul sand in last month’s Group Three Korea Sprint (1,200m).
Jumping awkwardly, Duke Wai was driven home by Damian Lane to finish fourth – nine lengths off victorious Japanese raider Remake.
After beating home Group Three winner Tuchel in a 1,200m all-weather trial last week, Ng is confident his galloper is in fine fettle ahead of Sunday’s contest.
“He travelled back brilliantly. It was the second trip for him and he handles it well,” Ng said of his galloper, who finished fifth in March’s Group One Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) on Dubai World Cup night. “We trialled him last week, which he won, and he finished very well. We’ve got the gear on for him, similar to the Korean race.”
The second-season trainer bagged a brace at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and now sits top of the trainers’ championship.
Joining Caspar Fownes, Danny Shum Chap-shing, and his former boss Francis Lui Kin-wai on 11 wins for the season, Ng appreciates the tough test facing his galloper in Sunday’s feature.
“It’s [going to be] difficult, but with the weight advantage, that’s a big help,” the 40-year-old trainer said of Duke Wai, who carries 117 pounds compared to Lucky Sweynesse’s 135.
Since inheriting the consistent speedster from retired trainer Paul O’Sullivan, Duke Wai has had 12 starts for Ng, recording one win and six top-four finishes.
On Sunday, Duke Wai will reignite his partnership with jockey Harry Bentley, who will be aiming to notch his first Group win in Hong Kong.
“I know the horse extremely well having ridden him plenty of times now. It’s a very
competitive race, but he’s carrying a light weight, and you never know,” Bentley said, confirming he was pleased with the eight-year-old’s recent Sha Tin trial.
He felt great. He pinged out well and got to the front pretty easily. I thought it was a really good trial. He ran in Korea at the start of September, so he’s had a run and his fitness is bang on.”
Ng confirmed Duke Wai is set to tread a similar path to last season, with an assignment in the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) on November 19 before a possible tilt at December 10’s Longines Hong Kong International Races.
Ng saddles eight runners on Sunday’s 10-race card, with exciting last-start winner Ka Ying Cheer lining up in the Class Four Cycling Handicap (1,200m).
Sent off at $2.15 on debut after defeating California Spangle in a trial, the four-year-old fought bravely to fend off a strong challenge.
To keep his unbeaten record intact, Ka Ying Cheer has been handed the task of overcoming gate 11, with the added burden of a 135-pound impost.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Andrea Atzeni will be one of the beneficiaries of Vincent Ho Chak-yiu’s eight-meeting suspension when he jumps aboard the Ng-trained Aestheticism, while Bentley will partner with Ng before the feature with the unraced Gangnam Star.
Meanwhile, the Jockey Club will offer free admission on Sunday for what it has coined “Hong Kong China’s Asian Games Medallists Celebration Raceday”, an initiative designed to recognise the “tremendous success” the city’s athletes achieved on their way to a record 53 medals in Hangzhou.
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