It was a case of close but not close enough once again for Hong Kong sprinter Blizzard as the chestnut produced a typically game effort for fifth in today’s (Sunday, 25 March) Group 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) at Chukyo Racecourse.
The Ricky Yiu-trained Blizzard was sent out sixth favourite on the local totalisator against Japan’s best sprinters. The Starcraft six-year-old found himself in a handy position early under rider Karis Teetan, although slightly keen with blinkers re-applied for the first time this season.
Blizzard settled down once last year’s winner Seiun Kosei and mare Diana Halo began to increase the tempo approaching the first turn. Upon straightening, the gelding – sent towards the crown of the track by Teetan – loomed as a strong chance, but it was at that point that the concerns about a wet surface in Nagoya came to the fore.
“He still had so much to give when I pulled him out to the centre of the track on the turn, but then the ground was too deep for him,” Teetan said.
“It was a firm track on top and was rated as such but it felt shifty underneath. It was like when a car gets stuck in the mud and the wheels keep spinning. Back home, on the firm ground, he is able to accelerate better, but I could feel his back leg getting stuck into the grass and he was struggling to get into his action.”
In the end, Blizzard finished fifth, only a length and a quarter from winner Fine Needle. It was a similar result to what the Hong Kong representative achieved in the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakayama in October, although that day’s winner Red Falx – sent out as the 2.3 favourite in Japan – could only finish eighth after settling near the rear.
“He was very honest, and I think I could have run fourth if I wasn’t given a heavy bump late,” Teetan said. “You can only admire him.”
Yiu added: “I think he showed today that if everything goes right, he is capable of winning a big race. Last time at Nakayama, he missed the start and ended up too far back. Today, from where I was watching, I could see that it was a bit shifty and there was some kickback at the top of the straight. He couldn’t quite balance himself, but this horse gives everything. Not many horses could run as well as he did when uncomfortable.”
Yiu, who had declared the Takamatsunomiya Kinen as Blizzard’s target for months, even suggested that there was a possibility of the six-year-old making an unprecedented third trip across to Japan later this season.
“He will fly home tomorrow morning and then he will run on 29 April,” Yiu said. “That would probably be for the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, but I have entered him for the Champions Mile as well. If he did go to the Champions Mile and performed well, then we could come back to Japan for the Yasuda Kinen.
It’s not out of the question, but the connections do like it here – as do I – so we would just need the incentive to be there with a good run next time.
“If not, we could always look at the Sprinters Stakes again.”