He produced a clean sweep of the inaugural Hong Kong Macau interport series with Crown’s Gift back in 2004, and Joe Lau is one man itching for the return of competition between the regions next month.
A two-race series that pits Hong Kong and Macau gallopers against each other, the competition has been on ice since 2019 because of the Covid-19 pandemic but it’s on track to make a belated return next month at Sha Tin.
While the Macau leg of the series was recently cancelled yet again, the Jockey Club has confirmed gallopers from the gambling mecca are expected to converge on Sha Tin on May 13 for the 110-85-rated Class One Hong Kong Macau Trophy (1,400m).
For a jurisdiction that’s a shadow of its former self and struggling to find its way post-Covid, Lau knows the return of this race – and eventually the Macau leg and the wagering benefits that come with Hong Kong punters betting on a Taipa card – is a significant step forward.
“It’s definitely positive. Anything like this will help to spark things up to a certain extent. I don’t know how much it will help, but it definitely will help,” said Lau, one of Macau’s leading trainers in recent decades.
“We’ve still got races, but the horse population has gone down a fair bit and we’re in a worrying situation. You just have to look at the turnover. That tells you everything.
“Turnover is the most important thing in any jurisdiction, and our turnover is very weak. We need more races and more owners – if you don’t have owners, racing won’t survive. I’m hopeful things can improve, but the club needs to think of new ideas.”
While whether the Macau horses are actually competitive this time around is far less important than the return of the series itself, Lau will ensure the region’s fans have something to cheer for by sending the jurisdiction’s highest-rated horse, Star Of Yiu Cheung, and possibly Sacred Magnate to Hong Kong.
“Hopefully I’ll bring two, but I’ll definitely bring one if all goes well from now until then,” Lau said.
“Star Of Yiu Cheung is getting a bit old – he’s an eight year old – and his last run was a bit disappointing at 1,200m, but he’s still the best horse here and the highest-rated horse in Macau on 115, so he’ll come to Hong Kong. The 1,400m will suit him.
“[The 80-rated] Sacred Magnate has got to win his next start. I scratched him on Saturday because he doesn’t like it wet.
“He’s got a run in two weeks, and he’s got to win that to get his rating up because the club took 10 points off at the beginning of the season. The club dropped every horse across the board 10 points to bring the prize money down – to have them running in lower races.”
As many as six Macau-trained gallopers are permitted in a field that could include Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) champion Voyage Bubble, with trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai indicating last month his four-year-old may skip the Group One Champions Mile in favour of the Class One.
“To think we’ll run into Voyage Bubble on our return,” Lau laughed. “But we’ll see. If nothing else, it’ll be a good change of scenery for the horses.”
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