He’s striking at only 3 per cent on the all-weather track this season compared to 11 per cent on the turf but Vincent Ho Chak-yiu is confident he has the ammunition to improve that record at Wednesday night’s dirt meeting at Sha Tin.
After all-weather returns of six winners at 9 per cent, six winners at 8 per cent and five winners at 9 per cent in the past three seasons, Ho has only saluted once on the dirt two-thirds of the way through 2020-21.
“I try to win every single race, of course, but on the dirt a lot depends on whether you have the right horse,” Ho said.
Giving Ho confidence is the fact five of his seven mounts at the midweek meeting have saluted on the all-weather track in the past and it’s his ride on Hongkong Great in the Class Two Cuckoo Handicap (1,650m) that has the jockey most excited.
The Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained five-year-old has exploded in 2021, producing two scintillating front-running victories at the course and distance and sticking on gamely for third after setting a furious pace up front under Antoine Hamelin over 1,800m.
Ho jumps aboard the three-time Chilean Group One winner for the first time as he steps up in grade, with the galloper’s 116-pound impost ruling out Zac Purton after he was in the saddle last start.
Despite drawing the tricky barrier 11 for his first Class Two assignment and the presence of fellow front-runners Kings Shield and Magnificent, Ho remains confident he can work his way to the lead without expending too much energy.
“With the handicap he should be competitive and I think he’s still fast enough to get a position from gate 11, he ran good time last start,” the jockey said.
“It depends how the pace pans out and it’s no problem if he has to settle outside the leader but he should be able to get to the lead.”
Kings Shield is at the top of the weights with 133 pounds, while another of Hong Kong’s leading dirt horses Elusive State carries 132 pounds in a race that also features Glorious Artist and Preciousship.
Elsewhere on the card, Ho partners a horse he is very familiar with in the Class Four Robin Handicap (1,200m), jumping aboard Thou Shall Sing for the 18th time.
He is the only jockey to salute aboard the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained six-year-old, with his four victories aboard the galloper including success at this meeting 12 months ago.
After winning his way into Class Three with three all-weather track victories in Class Four last term, the 56-rated gelding has now dropped below the mark of his most recent win in July and carries 130 pounds from gate four.
“His rating is there, it’s just he’s a year older and he’s run a few races this season already so he’s not as fresh,” Ho said. “We’ll see how he goes, he’s carrying weight so it won’t be easy but he’s still got the heart to fight it out so I’m confident.”
Ho also rides Yee Cheong Lucky, Tangmere, Sky Gem, Fortune Happiness and Eight Trigrams.