Duke Wai takes on Voyage Warrior and 10 others at Sha Tin on Saturday (8 February) as he seeks a fifth win on the bounce. Paul O’Sullivan’s gelding has been a revelation this term, skyrocketing 28 points in the ratings.
“He had a pretty good season last term and he’s just one horse who has kept improving, some go forward and some don’t, so it’s hard to predict how far he’ll go, but every time they win you get one closer to a defeat – although in saying that, I do think he’ll hold his own in Class 2,” O’Sullivan said.
The trainer though, admits that despite his winning progress, the four-year-old has an odd quirk.
“He often hops in the air as he leaves the gates and he’s done it since he first started trialling, so it’s just something he needs to sort out himself – sometimes he gets it right and sometimes he doesn’t,” O’Sullivan said.
His galloper got it right enough in the end the last four times and the man in the plate with an unblemished record aboard the New Zealand-bred charge is Karis Teetan.
“He’s done so well, especially his win down the straight when he came from so far behind,” Teetan said. “To see a horse do that in Hong Kong carrying top weight, you know there is something there, especially beating a horse who looks like he has a future.
That horse Teetan referenced is Lucky More, a two-time winner from five starts who has carried a big reputation since his before his debut.
Duke Wai’s reputation has grown too, although his frame is not exactly imposing. Weighing in at 1110lb, the Per Incanto gelding is the second-smallest horse in the race behind Gold Chest, who tips the scales at 1087lb, while Voyage Warrior is 1142lb.
“He’s surprised me because he’s not a very big horse, he’s tiny but he’s so brave and he loves to run, last time we found a bit of traffic but once he got out, he really flew to win a nice race,” Teetan said.
The Mauritian is up against a familiar foe, having partnered Voyage Warrior to his first two wins.
“When Voyage Warrior hopped on the scene, he blew everyone’s minds away, especially the manner in which he was winning his races,” Teetan said.
The 29-year-old was full of praise for Yiu’s galloper and believes he is capable of handling 1200 metres.
“When I rode him (Voyage Warrior) around a bend we had a bad draw and I told Ricky (Yiu) the horse can handle the distance and the bend. But it was the draw that day which did not help him – so for him to now have drawn barrier one, I think it should save him a few lengths,” Teetan said.
Teetan is aware though that this is not a two-horse war; two other last-start winners take their place in Kings Shield (118lb) and Hong Kong Bet (117lb), while Beauty Applause (116lb) and Computer Patch (114lb) boast striking resumes of their own.
“There are a few others in the race we need to respect also but there’s no doubt my horse will be competitive with them,” Teetan said.