Glorious Dragon will join stablemate Duke Wai as part of Hong Kong’s assault on Dubai World Cup night later this month after the veteran grey received a late invite to the Group One Dubai Turf (1,800m).
Already riding the high that came with confirmation earlier this week that Duke Wai would be his first overseas runner, rookie trainer Pierre Ng Pang-chi’s week got even better with the news he will be taking a team of two to Meydan.
“It was confirmed yesterday and we’re trying to organise everything as soon as possible because they’re leaving on Friday. It’s all happened like that,” Ng said, clicking his fingers.
Glorious Dragon has long been entered for the Dubai Turf and news of his inclusion comes hot on the heels of Danny Shum Chap-shing’s decision to bypass the race with Tourbillon Diamond, who had originally received an invite.
“There’ll be some very good horses in the race, but hopefully he runs well. He’s got the experience and hopefully he’s got the freshness to run well in his first run on the track,” Ng said.
Glorious Dragon has only had three starts for Ng since transferring from Francis Lui Kin-wai, but he has shown gradual improvement after being sidelined for over a year because of fetlock injuries.
The last of those outings saw Glorious Dragon finish two and a quarter lengths behind the great Golden Sixty in the Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m), and the eight-year-old will now be Hong Kong’s representative in the race connections briefly considered targeting with the two-time Horse of the Year.
Recent Class One winner Duke Wai runs in the Group One Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m), stepping into the void left by Sky Field after Caspar Fownes scratched the Group One winner on Monday.
Jerry Chau Chun-lok rides Duke Wai, while Ng has acquired the services of one-time Hong Kong-based Irishman Neil Callan to pilot Glorious Dragon.
Whyte’s speedster scorches the turf
Cheval Valiant turned heads with the fastest time of the season at Sha Tin on Saturday, and while there were some questioning apprentice jockey Angus Chung Yik-lai’s tactics during the Class Four Sa Po Handicap (1,000m), the sprinter’s trainer, Douglas Whyte, maintains he was very comfortable with what was unfolding in front of him.
Drawn the unfavourable barrier two for the straight-track test, Cheval Valiant shot out of the gates, raced across to the outside rail and opened up a seven-length lead crossing the halfway mark.
“Yeah, because I know the horse,” Whyte responded when asked if he was happy with Chung’s early exuberance.
“He only picks up half a length, but what he gives you between the 600m and the 400m, he’ll drop the rest and that’s his winning move. He doesn’t stop, he stays on.
“If he can get that three-, four-, five-length break on them, they’ve got to play catch up and it takes them out of their comfort zone.”
Cheval Valiant made the most of Chung’s 10-pound claim to post a final time of 55.80 seconds, usurping stablemate Carroll Street’s recent 55.85 as the swiftest time this term.
He flew between the 800m and the 400m in 20.24 seconds, including a lightning 9.88-second sectional between the 800m and the 600m before a 10.36-second split from the
600m to the 400m.
Entitled to tire late, the four-year-old completed the job with a 22.86-second final 400m – the race’s sixth slowest – to defeat runner-up Speedy Fortune by two lengths.
“I didn’t think he’d go that fast – gee 55.80, that’s running,” Whyte said. “But he’s a little bit one dimensional and with the 10 pounds off I just said, ‘don’t wait about, let them come and catch you. He’s a hardened, educated horse, and the favourite is going to have to be good if we run him off his feet’.
“It was a tactic of jump and let him run and let them catch you if they’re good enough.”
It was Chung’s 19th victory of his maiden Hong Kong season, but his first down the Sha Tin straight.
“He did [a good job]. Fortunately, he’s ridden the horse before. The last time he rode him he was slightly slow away and he came out and he got his head up,” Whyte said.
“I think he knew the horse better today and obviously he jumped very cleanly. He held him together for a long time, which was imperative, and he gave him a good ride.”
Cheval Valiant will now find himself in Class Three for the first time and Whyte is confident there is more to come from his speed merchant.
“He’s been lumping around 135 [pounds], but today the 10-pound claim obviously helped and I think stepping up in grade with a lighter weight is going to be beneficial for him,” he said.
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