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Master Eight has been one of this season’s most impressive performers with swift progression from Class 3 into a leading protagonist for Sunday week’s (23 January) HKD$12 million Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) – a seemingly daunting task for the four-year-old but one that trainer Frankie Lor is quietly relishing.
Aiming to extend his unconquered record to six, Master Eight faces a collection of the circuit’s best short-course operators in nine days’ time at Sha Tin – including Wellington, Hot King Prawn, Sky Field and Courier Wonder to name a few.
“It’s really exciting, of course if he can keep winning it’ll be good,” Lor said. “We will know more after this race. If he can win, I will be really happy but if he can also finish very close then I’ll still be happy – then at least we know that he is up to Group 1 level.”
Looking for an heir apparent to the three-time Group 1-winnning Mr Stunning, Lor was pleased with what he saw from the Oamaru Force gelding in the Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) earlier this month.
“I think he will run well – last run he dropped back and maybe he can learn a bit more by doing that, so he knows that there is no need to always lead or sit second, sometimes he can sit third or fourth and relax and still finish well,” Lor said.
Pairing in all five starts with Joao Moreira, the budding talent will instead unite with Matthew Chadwick for the first time.
“This time there will be no Joao (Moreira) – he’s riding for John Size. Matthew Chadwick rides and I will put him on to gallop the horse next Monday (17 January),” Lor said.
Master Eight has risen 49 rating points across just five starts after arriving in Hong Kong as an unraced PPG (Privately Purchased Griffin) on a mark of 52.
“He’s against stiffer opposition this time around but he’s there for a reason, so hopefully we can get a smooth run in transit and I’m sure Frankie (Lor) has got him where he wants him to be,” Chadwick said. “I’m looking forward to it, it was very interesting (his last run).”
Chasing his first win in the Centenary Sprint Cup, Lor is looking to put an end to his former mentor’s stranglehold of the race – John Size – who chases a fifth in succession after the heroics of D B Pin (2018), Beat The Clock (2019 & 2020) and Hot King Prawn (2021).
“His rating is 101 and we can’t see anything for him to run in the next month or so that is suitable, so let’s see how good he is – we just don’t know,” Lor said.
Lor also saddles Healthy Happy for the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) on Sunday, 23 January – second-up following his sparkling seasonal return in the Group 3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1400m) earlier this month.
“After his last run he’s come back and he looks good, he looks better – I know Golden Sixty is really good but we have no choice on where to run him, the prize money is still very good in the race,” Lor said.
Triumphant in last season’s Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), Healthy Happy – a son of Zoustar – boasts four wins from 10 starts in Hong Kong and has a mouth-watering HKD$14.948 million banked for connections.
“If your horse is in good form – anything can happen, so you never know,” Lor said.
Alexis Badel is engaged to ride Healthy Happy; the Frenchman has partnered the five-year-old in two of his career wins.
Lor will be double-handed in the Stewards’ Cup with Kings Shield also entered.
Size trio limbers up at Sha Tin
Courier Wonder, Hot King Prawn and Waikuku tuned-up at Friday morning’s (14 January) Sha Tin barrier trial session in preparation for their respective Group 1 tests on Sunday, 23 January.
Engaged in batch one on the dirt this morning, the trio stepped away cleanly with Courier Wonder and Hot King Prawn sitting close in the running, while Waikuku trailed – as usual – at the tail-end of the group.
Under a firm hold throughout, Courier Wonder – who is building towards the Centenary Sprint Cup – clocked 1m 11.74s under Joao Moreira to cross the line fourth, while Hot King Prawn moved into second behind Hongkong Great – clocking 1m 11.63s for the 1200m workout.
Size has a strong record in the Stewards’ Cup with six wins in the race thanks to Electronic Unicorn (2002 & 2003), Super Kid (2004), Armada (2007), Glorious Days (2013) and Waikuku (2020) – who is looking to recapture his crown from Golden Sixty.
Also entered for the Stewards’ Cup is More Than This who crossed the line third under Derek Leung this morning behind Hot King Prawn. Last start, the Dutch Art six-year-old finished second to Golden Sixty in the 2021 Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m).
In batch two, Lucky Patch crossed the line eighth under Zac Purton in a time of 1m 10.58s – also over 1200m. The El Roca gelding holds an entry in the Centenary Sprint Cup.