Veteran Newmarket handler David Elsworth is looking forward to a return to Hong Kong to saddle Sir Dancealot in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin, a track he visited as long ago as 1990, when he sent Landyap to finish fourth in the Hong Kong Cup.
Elsworth is nearing his 79th birthday but his enthusiasm for training remains undimmed in the autumn of a hugely successful career that has seen him succeed at the sport’s highest reaches with both Jumps and Flat racers.
He was champion British jumps trainer in the 1987/88 season when he had a Grand National winner, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason, to his credit. In addition, he earned a place in British racing history as trainer of legendary steeplechaser Desert Orchid.
Sir Dancealot has been ultra-consistent in 2018 – winning G3 and G2 prizes at Newmarket, Goodwood and Newbury – while posing an interesting question so far as the Hong Kong International Races is concerned.
All those wins were at seven furlongs (1400m), which the trainer concedes is probably Sir Dancealot’s optimum distance. Thus the dilemma was whether to tackle the Sprint or the Hong Kong Mile.
“We’d been thinking about the Hong Kong races for a while, but there isn’t a race at seven furlongs,” Elsworth said. “My first thought was to stretch him out for the Mile, but I discussed things with his jockey Gerald Mosse.
“Gerald has a lot of Hong Kong experience and after discussing things we decided the Mile looked tough and that Sir Dancealot would be better suited by six furlongs (1200m) good ground and a strong pace – so the Sprint is the way we went.”
While not underestimating the task ahead, Elsworth clearly holds his stable star in high regard.
“It’s a high class race, of course it is, but Sir Dancealot has done nothing wrong all year – he’s the only one coming out from Europe for the Sprint, so we’ll give it a go,” he said.
“His one poor run was at Haydock when the ground was heavy. He’s only a four-year-old, but he’s improved all year and hopefully he’ll have a few more seasons in him yet.”