TALENTED galloper Blizzard could book a return ticket to Japan if it can post a smart effort in Sunday’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin Racecourse, and trainer Ricky Yiu expects the six-year-old to do just that.
The prodigious chestnut hit his straps close to home when fifth in the Group One Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama on 1 October, and Yiu believes that assignment in Japan has benefited his charge.
“He’s returned really well,” he said.
“I think he enjoyed the trip to Japan, he’s a more relaxed horse since he’s come back. I think the change of scenery really made a difference with him.”
The market does not reflect the trainer’s confidence. Online bookmaker Ladbrokes has Blizzard as a $17 outsider for the Hong Kong Sprint.
The horse has not raced since finishing a length and a quarter behind Red Falx on the outskirts of Tokyo, and heads into this weekend’s test off just one barrier trial. That was a 1200m all-weather heat a week ago, in which the Starcraft gelding passed the post a neck second of 11 behind Dundonnell.
“He was ridden out by Umberto (Rispoli) in the trial but he was fresh, he hadn’t trialled since Japan so he needed it,” Yiu said.
Gerald Mosse is expected to take the reins in the HK$18.5 million sprint.
Blizzard was a winner on Hong Kong’s big day last year, but that was in the class one handicap over 1400m. This time, the horse gets a chance in one of the majors.
The Hong Kong Sprint has been a happy hunting ground for Yiu, accounting for all three of his previous wins at the fixture thanks to Fairy King Prawn (1999) and the great Sacred Kingdom (2007 and 2009). Blizzard, for all his ability and courage, does not rank in that lofty company, but his handler still anticipates a good run.
Hong Kong Sprint runner Blizzard heads out under @umbyrispolo to trial on the Sha Tin dirt. It is his first trial since his 5th in the Sprinters Stakes in Japan #HKIR #HKRacing pic.twitter.com/HHrekxEGcx
— Andrew Hawkins (@AndrewNJHawkins) November 28, 2017
“He’ll be close again on Sunday,” he said.
“It depends on where he draws and how he jumps – sometimes his head is up to the sky when the gates open. But I think he will run well. I think he will be settled midfield somewhere and should be given his chance.”
After such a professional effort across the sea this autumn, connections are keen to try again this spring.
“The owner really wants to go to Japan again, (to the Takamatsunomiya Kinen) in March, that’s the plan. I think we will most likely go back,” Yiu said.
“We had nice sushi last time, so we have to have it again.”