Rookie trainer Pierre Ng Pang-chi will dispatch Duke Wai to the US$1.5 million Group One Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) later this month if the Dubai Racing Club invites Sunday’s Class One Devon Handicap (1,200m) winner to compete on the World Cup programme.
Placed in three Group races since he joined Ng’s new stable from retired handler Paul O’Sullivan during the summer break, Duke Wai registered his first win for the 39-year-old newcomer when he beat Courier Wonder by half a length, with long-time leader Nervous Witness close up in third.
Reunited with Jerry Chau Chun-lok, who had partnered him to his previous victory, Duke Wai made good use of gate one to settle closer to the speed than usual before he overtook Nervous Witness and Campione in the straight and held off the challenge of Courier Wonder, who went for a tight run between horses.
“He got the inside draw this time,” Ng said of Duke Wai, who was the $7.9 third favourite. “Jerry knows him well. He just had to wake him up in the early stages and let him travel. Around the bend until the 300m, he was travelling quite strongly, and he finished off very well. After the race, Jerry told me Courier Wonder was never going to get past him.”
Chau’s third win from nine rides aboard Duke Wai was the highlight of a tough week for the young rider.
While Jockey Club stewards elected not to issue a charge against Chau following Friday’s reconvened inquiry into Circuit Splendor’s recent third placing at Happy Valley, they suspended him for two meetings – March 26 and March 29 – for his careless riding of Handsome Twelve in Sunday’s other Class One event at Sha Tin, the dirt-track Norfolk Handicap (1,650m).
“I’ve ridden this horse before and I know this horse,” Chau said of nine-time winner Duke Wai. “I was very lucky to get the position I did, and the horse travelled very well. I let him balance in the straight and the visor helped him a lot when he took the lead – he never wanted to stop.”
Duke Wai holds entries in two overseas Group One races on the final weekend of this month – the Al Quoz Sprint in the United Arab Emirates on March 25 and the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1,200m) in Japan on March 26. Ng’s preference is the former.
“If we get an invitation from Dubai, we’ll go to Dubai,” Ng said. “I’d love to see him run in a straight 1,200m race because, in the past, he’s run very well in straight 1,000m races here in Hong Kong, but there’s no straight 1,200m races here.
“If he doesn’t, we’ll go through the motions again, going for the Group Two and the Group One races here in Hong Kong because he wasn’t invited to Japan.”
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Duke Wai’s stablemate, former David Hayes-trained speedster Super Wealthy, is another galloper whom Ng hopes the Dubai Racing Club invites to contest the Al Quoz Sprint, which Joy And Fun and Amber Sky won for Hong Kong in 2010 and 2014, respectively.
Last season’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) champion, Sky Field, and this term’s runner-up in that feature event, Sight Success, are Hong Kong’s other entries for the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan.
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