King Of Hearts (118lb) put first-season blues behind him with a breakthrough Hong Kong win first-up this season, boosting trainer Tony Cruz’s expectations ahead a hoped for follow-up in Sunday’s (6 October) Class 2 Sheung Wan Handicap (1400m). “It took him a while to acclimatise to Hong Kong, he was very disappointing,” Cruz said of the horse purchased in the hope that he might play some part in last season’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series. “He wasn’t up to that kind of category and I was very disappointed with the ability he showed last season, I thought he would be better than that,” he added.
A winner of five from seven pre-import, including an Ascot victory, the Society Rock gelding struggled in his debut season, registering just one top three finish from nine runs. But King Of Hearts finally pieced it all together last time out, suggesting steady improvement may continue now that he has finally adjusted to life in Hong Kong. It is not uncommon for pre-raced imports to struggle with the Hong Kong circuit when they first arrive, a case in point being Cruz’s two-time Group 1 winner Time Warp, who took eight runs to break through.
King Of Hearts has a long way to go if he is to ever match his stablemate’s achievements, but Cruz is at least hoping for a continuation of the gelding’s fine start to this term.
“His last run we were expecting him to do something and he won, I was very happy about that,” the trainer said. “He has to prove himself more, let’s see how he goes this season, his pet distance is seven furlongs and I think he has a good chance on Sunday, I’m very happy with his condition.”
Karis Teetan partnered King Of Hearts to his last-start win and indicated this morning that the horse has matured nicely into his second Hong Kong racing season. “This horse felt that he was stronger this season and he won a very good race last time,” Teetan said. “He’s not the type that has a lot of speed, so of course I will leave him where he is comfortable and I’m pretty sure he’s going to have a good finish again.”
The race features a host of chances, including Fast Most Furious (132lb), Hezthewonforus (129lb), Uncle Steve (116lb) and Gold Chest (123lb) a last-start winner trained by Richard Gibson who, like King Of Hearts, opened his account last time after a winless debut season. “He got the job done and the form’s worked out well so there’s a bit of encouragement for the future. With time now he’s gained maturity and strength, so I think we’ll be pushing up to a mile probably next up,” Gibson said.
Derek Leung who secured his first win this season aboard Gold Chest will be in the plate again this Sunday. “Last time he won very well, the draw and the pace helped him, that’s why he was able to switch off and run home strongly. This time we have the wide draw and he just needs a fast tempo, if he can slot in with cover, I think he will run well,” Leung said of the well-bred four-year-old who arrived from Britain unbeaten in two starts, one of which was in Listed grade.