Trainer Chris So believes that it is best to overlook Classic Emperor’s two Dubai appearances when assessing his chances in Wednesday night’s Class 2 Victoria Racing Club Trophy Handicap (1650m) on the Sha Tin all-weather track.
Classic Emperor won at both starts over the course and distance earlier this season, prompting So to travel him to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup Carnival. However, it proved a campaign of challenges.
At his first outing in a 1600m handicap in late February, Classic Emperor knuckled as the gates opened and dumped jockey Derek Leung.
Stepping out again in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar (1600m) on Super Saturday in March, the Medaglia d’Oro gelding was hampered in the early stages under Oisin Murphy and ended up a long way back from a hot speed, eventually trailing in 20 lengths behind winner Kimbear.
“I feel we should forget Classic Emperor’s two races in Dubai,” So said on Monday morning (30 April). “I think the travel took a bit out of him, he was not used to his environment over there and the racing style proved too foreign for him – he didn’t know what to do when they went so quick early.
“He lost a bit of weight coming back and it took time for him to recover, but he has put that back on now and he is at a good body weight. His attitude is good and he looks bright in the stables. We just have to forget that Dubai ever happened, I think.”
Classic Emperor returned to Hong Kong in late March and has been in work at Sha Tin since the start of April. This included a barrier trial over 1200m on the dirt on 20 April, where the six-year-old was scrubbed along before finishing second to Class 5 galloper Rochford.
“The trial was not visually impressive, that’s for sure,” So said, “but he really needed it and I think he will have taken a lot of benefit from it. That certainly seems the case from how he has been since.
“I’m hopeful he will run a good race on Wednesday and, really, there’s no reason why he can’t win.”
Keith Yeung, who was on Classic Emperor’s back for both wins this season and also for his recent trial, will take the ride once again. The galloper has drawn gate four in a nine-horse field.
His first race back on Hong Kong soil is an open affair. In addition to Classic Emperor (131lb), who won by six and three-quarter lengths over the Sha Tin dirt 1650m in November, Beauty Prince (120lb), Calculation (119lb) and Divine Boy (115lb) have all been big-margin course and distance victors this term.
At the head of the weights is the Ricky Yiu-trained Packing Dragon (133lb). Jockey Chad Schofield, who won two races on the grey from three rides last season, will be atop the Mastercraftsman six-year-old for the first time this season.
“It’s great to get back aboard Packing Dragon and I do have a good record on him,” Schofield said of the half-brother to Ambitious Dragon. “He’s done very well this season, winning a Class 2 and a Class 1. He’s still somewhat unproven on the dirt but I have trialled him on the surface before and he’s trialled very well with me.
“He’s in Class 2 with a big weight and that’s always a difficult task, but he’s a very honest horse and I think he should run well.”
Perpetual Joyance (126lb), Fight Hero (125lb), Blocker Dee (114lb) and Dr Win Win (113lb) complete the line-up.
The Victoria Racing Club Trophy Handicap is the fourth of eight races at Sha Tin’s all-dirt meeting on Wednesday night and is scheduled for 8.45pm, with the opener, the Class 5 Chung Hom Kok Handicap (1200m), set to jump at 7.15pm.