Frankie Lor already has two victories at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races among close to 200 Hong Kong winners across only four seasons as a trainer, and on Sunday (22 November) at Sha Tin the handler will saddle a trio of chances looking to lay out their credentials for December’s HK$95 million showcase event.
Simply Brilliant contests the HK$4.5 million Group 2 Jockey Club Mile first-up with a second LONGINES Hong Kong Mile challenge in mind, while Big Party and Fat Turtle take in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) with the HK$22 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint on the radar.
Simply Brilliant, who faded to the tail in last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, is returning from an eight-month layoff, which includes a stint at Conghua, due to joint problems that required prolonged rest as the best remedy.
“After his last run we found that he had a few joint problems, so we gave him some time off, he’s had a trial in Conghua over 800 metres, which is a bit short for him, I don’t want him to work too hard so that’s why I gave him a trial over 800 metres,” Lor said.
With a rating of 114, the 2019 Group 3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) winner has placed once at Group 1 level, when third to Beauty Generation in the 2019 FWD Champions Mile, but since then has only finished inside the top three once, when notching a smart Class 1 victory over 1600m at Sha Tin in March this year.
“He has now returned to Hong Kong and I just gave him another trial over 1200 metres, and he looks ok. He looks better although he’s still not 100 percent, but I need to race him because his rating is 114,” Lor said, adding “I’ll know more after Sunday’s race,” as to whether or not he will push on towards the Hong Kong Mile.”
Prior to export, the Frankel gelding – then named Senator – was a two-time winner for trainer Richard Fahey in Britain and came sixth of 29 in the 2017 Britannia Handicap (1600m) at Royal Ascot.
Derek Leung will partner the six-year-old against six other potential starters, including Golden Sixty, Southern Legend, Ka Ying Star, Champion’s Way, Mighty Giant and Harmony Victory.
Without an entrant for the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup this Sunday, Lor’s attentions will be firmly on the Jockey Club Sprint, at which he sets eye-catching trial victor Fat Turtle, as well as the talented Group 3-winning grey, Big Party.
“I think he (Fat Turtle) will run a good race this Sunday, then we can look to the Hong Kong Sprint,” Lor said.
The Smart Missile gelding is a three-time winner from 18, twice over 1200m at Sha Tin, and placed in last season’s Group 3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1400m) and Group 3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m).
“The 1200 is a bit short for him but the 1400 metres is also too long for him, it’s hard,” Lor said.
Fat Turtle is still lightly raced and although tested only once at Group 1 level, his form around the now-retired Thanks Forever bodes well, as that horse racked up two close-up placings in Group 1 company: runner-up in the Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) to Beat The Clock and a third to Mr Stunning in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
“Early on in the season I raced him once and he wasn’t so good, so I gave him some time off and started to work him in Conghua and he trialled once up there and once down here in Hong Kong,” Lor said. “He’s getting better, I think he’ll run a good race.”
Fat Turtle failed to make an impact in his latest race, the Class 1 feature on the season’s opening day, but his latest barrier trial performance turned heads at Sha Tin as he crossed the line relatively easy, two and three-quarter lengths clear, after travelling wide throughout.
Vincent Ho will take the reins, against what could be a 10-runner field featuring Computer Patch, Hot King Prawn, Wishful Thinker, Voyage Warrior, Stronger, Big Time Baby, Amazing Star and Rattan, as well as stablemate, Big Party.
The last-named hasn’t quite reached the dizzying heights that was expected early on in his career when he won three out of his first five starts before a classy score at start number nine in the Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m).
“Everyone knows this horse, if he runs good it’s really good, sometimes he’s up and down, but anyway, I gave him a trial and he trialled well to finish second,” Lor said.
Lor does wonder if Big Party’s mind is getting the better of him at times, as while talented, the Exceed And Excel gelding has mixed his form inconsistently across his 15-start career, with five wins but only one placing.
“I don’t know how he will go in the race. He has ability but sometimes his mind – well, how he performs, it’s in his head,” Lor said.
Chad Schofield is expected to take the reins should he be fully recovered from a recent injury to his left hand. But the 26-year-old Australian rider’s only pairing with the grey saw him finish a neck third to winner Thanks Forever and second placegetter Hot King Prawn in last season’s Group 3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m), while stablemate Fat Turtle grabbed fourth.