Hong Kong's emerging sprint star Lucky Sweynesse will certainly be top of the pops with trainer Manfred Man if he can claim victory in the HK$24 million Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The four-year-old, to be ridden by Zac Purton, rocketed up the charts in his Hong Kong debut season to be named Hong Kong Champion Griffin and is “still improving” according to his 65-year-old trainer who, for obvious reasons, was dubbed Manfred by the late, great George Moore, who was 11 times champion trainer in Hong Kong.
Not that the reason was obvious then to Man who, after his riding career, learned much of his training craft from Moore's son John, who won seven trainers' premierships.
“George Moore gave me the name but at that time I was still young and just a country boy and didn't know anything about an English musician or the band with his name but the name just stuck with me,” Man said on Tuesday morning at Sha Tin.
More formally known as Manfred Man Ka-leung, the trainer is on the cusp of the biggest win of his 21-year career with the horse he named as the best he's trained after Lucky Sweynesse won the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) in a time just .05 seconds slower than Sacred Kingdom's track record.
2022 Jockey Club Sprint Replay
“He still has room for improvement and I'm hopeful on Sunday he can show us even more than he has so far. His last run was very good; he drew 11 and Zac (Purton) rode him the perfect race finding a good trail and coming down the straight he dashed very strongly.
“That showed he can from behind and I think, on Sunday, with a good draw he could sit fourth or fifth and be strong at the finish again. He can lead or come from behind but I would prefer him to come from off the speed,” Man said.
Man has no intention of overdoing the horse's work in the lead-up to Sunday's major race.
“His last run was only three weeks ago and he's fit. I want to keep him fresh so I don't want to push him too much on the track,” he said.
Purton credited the trainer's management of the horse as he outlined in detail, as is the custom of the number one jockey, his assessment of his Sprint mount.
“He's still improving this horse,” Purton said, “He's not a fully developed and furnished horse yet but I think Manfred (Man) has handled him really well. At the times he's needed a break he's backed off and given him a break. Then the off-season came at a perfect time for him. As he's progressed through his career, he's had the time to enjoy himself and strengthen up a little bit more and then come back and progress again through another campaign.
“They don't often get a chance to do that here in Hong Kong. Once they start racing, they tend to keep racing as the season only goes so long and owners want to see their horses racing. It takes a brave call to take your time and Manfred had the owner willing to take that advice so that was great.
“I think we've seen the benefit of that this season. He won very well first-up albeit in a messy race. The horses midfield and back copped a lot of interference while he was able to kick forward but he was devastating in that win.
“Second start this season he drew wide and they made me work to get across but he still gave a good kick and it took a champion sprinter in Wellington to run him down. Wellington had 11 pounds more and had a lovely run on my back but did beat me fairly convincingly.
“Then, last start, there was only a five-pound difference between us and Wellington. We drew awkwardly and with a lot of speed in that race we had to come back and find a spot and he relaxed really well and did a really good job. I thought it was quite a soft win in the end.
“I expect Wellington to be a stronger competitor this time as he pulled up lame and was quite sore for a week or so. If he's back to his best he's going to be pretty hard to beat but my bloke keeps raising the bar and he's lightly raced and young and they're the type of horse you want to be because you don't know where their ceiling is.”
Purton believes that Lucky Sweynesse has been more adaptable through his career than generally thought and that his run-on win last time did not surprise him.
“He's shown some versatility throughout his career. First start in a race at Happy Valley, I took a sit behind the speed on him and took an inside run and he won well. Then next start he led, then later he sat behind the speed when he won at 1400 (metres). It was no surprise to see what he did the other day.
“The only chink in his armour is that he is not brilliant out of the gates. His wheels spin for the first 100 metres so you've got to get the start right and then you've got to ride him along to get any sort of position. In sprint races here where they're usually so quick from the gates it can pose a problem. A kind gate would certainly help,” Purton said.