Frankie Lor swept the Four-Year-Old Classic Series in 2019 but one year after Furore set the ball rolling in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, the trainer is this time pinning his hopes prudently rather than nailing them assuredly.
The horse carrying the Lor standard into the first race of the three-leg series is the promising Decrypt, highly-tried in Europe and a horse of apparent ability judged on his two efforts so far at Sha Tin. The grey colt finished third in both of those 1400m starts, latterly to the impressive Beauty Legacy, one of eight rivals in Monday’s (27 January) feature.
But a pedigree replete with sprinting influences raises a question mark over his first start at a mile since he was last seen in action; when three and a half lengths third behind Phoenix Of Spain and Too Darn Hot in the Group 1 Irish 2,000 Guineas, no less.
Lor believes the Series’ first leg will be within the scope of a horse who scored over 1200m and 1400m in Ireland pre-import: beyond that, his charge’s ability to stretch out for the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) will remain a puzzle for now.
“I think the mile should be no problem – 1800 and 2000 metres, we don’t know yet,” the handler said.
On Monday, Silvestre de Sousa will partner the son of Dark Angel, whose dam scored at five furlongs. The Brazilian ace takes over from Zac Purton and partnered his big-race mount for the first time in a gallop yesterday morning (Tuesday, 21 January), covering 800m of the all-weather track in 56.1s (29.4, 26.7).
“He has that Classic form but it’s a different kettle of fish when they come to Hong Kong, he has to acclimatise and everything. It all depends on what kind of pace they go, he has a bit of toe and the form of the Irish Guineas hasn’t held up – he finished placed but he was a long way back,” De Sousa said.
“I’ve sat on him and he feels pretty well in the morning. It’ll be a good race because he hasn’t disgraced himself in Hong Kong and I just hope he can come on and improve with those two runs under his belt.”
Lor has made some adjustments to the colt’s race-day gear as he seeks an edge against a small but quality-imbued field, headed by the likes of tried and proven multiple winners Golden Sixty, More Than This and Champion’s Way, and also featuring the exciting Australian Group 2 scorer Beauty Legacy, a winner at his first Hong Kong start earlier this month.
“This time I’ll put the tongue-tie on just to help him be a little bit more relaxed. We’ve used it a few times in the morning,” Lor said.
“Golden Sixty looks quite strong and the other is More Than This, so we’ll wait and see – my horse has only two starts here so we don’t know yet how improved he is.”
Furore roared to Classic Mile success under Hugh Bowman last year and rolled on to place fourth behind stable companion Mission Tycoon in the Classic Cup before crowning the Series with a victory over Waikuku in the BMW Hong Kong Derby.
That made Lor the second trainer to sweep the Series – John Moore saddled Rapper Dragon to take all three legs in 2017 and the same handler’s Able Friend and Designs On Rome divided the honours in 2014.
“I hope to win again, we’ll try!” Lor added.
Tony Cruz was the last trainer to seal back-to-back wins in the Classic Mile (2007 Floral Pegasus, 2008 Helene Mascot).
De Sousa sat on another of his Four-Year-Old Classic Series prospects this morning when he guided Enjoying – Group 2 winner Global Exchange in Australia – through a pleasing 1600m trial on the turf.
The three-time British champion jockey rode the Moore-trained galloper to an eye-catching third-place in an 1800m Class 2 handicap almost three weeks ago, after which connections opted to skip the Hong Kong Classic Mile with the BMW Hong Kong Derby the ultimate goal.
“He did a nice trial this morning,” De Sousa said. “We didn’t overdo it but he ran on very well from the 600 metres to the winning post.
“I felt I was a bit unlucky last time, I didn’t get the split when I wanted it and the winner had the first run on me but he finished the race well. I was happy with the trial he did this morning.
“I have a good relationship with the owner in England so I ride his horses when I can,” he continued. “I don’t know for sure what ride I have for the Derby, I just hope to get a ride and come back for the Derby.”
The Hong Kong Classic Mile is one of three features on Monday’s 11-race Chinese New Year race day. Champion Stayer Exultant will head the weights in the Group 3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m), while a hot field will go to post for the Class 1 Chinese New Year Cup Handicap (1400m).