Master Eight has a long way to go if he is to fill the void left by the brilliant Mr Stunning in Frankie Lor’s stable, but this Sunday (3 April) the handler is hopeful the exciting four-year-old can take a step closer to fulfilling his early promise when he lines up in the HKD$4.75 million Group 2 Sprint Cup (1200m) at Sha Tin.
Shaping as a potential top-liner with five wins from his first five starts, the chestnut turned heads at Sha Tin with a 1200m Class 4 course record (1m 08.40s) on debut; he then added another four wins in style, however, crushing defeat in the Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) followed before he went under again in Class 1 company earlier this month.
Perhaps the son of Oamaru Force – who has swiftly risen to a rating of 105 – needs more time to develop before making his mark on the big-time, nevertheless, Lor is holding faith in the gelding’s ability to delve deeper as he gears up for Sunday’s Sprint Cup test and a possible Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) tilt on FWD Champions Day (24 April).
“He’s entered for the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, so we’ll see on Sunday how he runs,” Lor said. “He’s still young and still learning; Joao’s (Moreira) on so that’s a big positive.”
Victorious in the Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) earlier this year, Master Eight relished favourable conditions but this time he steps out under set weights against fierce opposition – assigned 123lb alongside Hot King Prawn and seven others including Lucky Patch and Super Wealthy, while Wellington, Sky Field and Stronger carry 128lb each.
“He looks good, last time he won was in Group 3 company with a light weight, this time, the weight difference is not as big, but I hope he can still keep improving,” Lor said.
Irrespective of this weekend, Master Eight has time on his side – he’s only a four-year-old and with another season under his belt he can continue to build on his sizzling precocity and soon after raise his hand to reinforce Hong Kong’s invariably strong sprint division.
“He should run well this Sunday, his form is good. I let Joao gallop him on Monday (28 March) and I will gallop him again on Thursday (31 March) – then he will be ready to race on Sunday,” Lor said.
Master Eight clocked 45.3s (24.3, 21.0) in a turf gallop under Moreira at Sha Tin on Monday morning.
Lor also saddles Healthy Happy and Kings Shield for this Sunday’s Group 2 double-header at Sha Tin with the pairing lining up in the HKD$4.75 million Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) against Golden Sixty, looking to enhance the handler’s sparkling run of form which includes five wins from his last 12 runners.
This Wednesday’s (30 March) eight-race all-dirt fixture sees four entrants from Lor, spearheaded by Like That’s inclusion in the Class 3 Pui O Handicap (1200m, dirt).
The last-start winner led from the get-go at Happy Valley earlier this month and steps onto the dirt for the second time across his 22-start career in Hong Kong.
“I think so (to being competitive on the dirt), he raced on the surface last season and he finished close to the winner, so I think he can handle the track,” Lor said.
At his final outing of last term, the Akeed Mofeed four-year-old came within two lengths of Ka Ying Master – who won the race – on the dirt, placing seventh just behind Sight Success and Czarson.