Frankie Lor parades Four-Year-Old Classic hopefuls at Sha Tin

Leo Schlink

23/12/2022 17:11

Keefy is chasing successive wins for the reigning champion trainer.
Keefy is chasing successive wins for the reigning champion trainer.

Locked in battle for the Hong Kong trainers’ championship, Frankie Lor will unleash a formidable band of Four-Year-Old Classic Series contenders at Sha Tin on Saturday (24 December), hopeful of ending a frustrating recent run of near misses.

With 22 wins, Lor sits third in the 2022/23 standings behind Tony Cruz (24) and John Size (23), but the reigning champion trainer’s victory tally could have been even more impressive if not for an exasperating string of minor placings.

From 36 starters across six December meetings, Lor has saddled two winners and 12 minor place-getters, but hopes Class 1 Chevalier Cup Handicap (1600m) winner Keefy can crown tomorrow’s meeting with victory in Class 2 Poinsettia Handicap (1600m) under Derek Leung.

“I was a bit surprised – winning by three lengths – I thought he had a good chance, but he won well,” Lor said of the 100-rater who is being aimed at the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on 29 January.

“Last season, I was thinking he should be suitable for the Four-Year-Old (Classic) Series. I think a mile to 1800m is still okay and I hope 2000m is okay.”

Apart from Keefy (135lb), Lor will also be represented by All For St Paul’s (126lb) and Celestial Power (124lb) in the meeting finale, which also features Tony Cruz-trained Beautyverse (123lb) for Zac Purton, who needs two wins to reach 1,500 Hong Kong victories.

Beautyverse triumphs on debut.

Five-time Hong Kong champion Purton is hopeful Beautyverse, who created a strong impression when winning on debut on 6 November, can erase memories of his subsequent seventh behind Keefy on 27 November.

“He got it all wrong. He’s a horse who’s over-raced and done a few things wrong in his races back in Australia, which is why they allowed him to relax in his races,” Purton said of the G1 South Australian Derby (2500m) winner formerly known as Jungle Magnate.

“But after his first race in Hong Kong when Tony asked me to lead – and it worked that day because he was drawn wide because he was able to build his momentum up and lead – but drawn inside last start, he was a bit slow out and I gave him a squeeze, it just set him alight and he wouldn’t stop. He got his head up and it all went wrong.

“I haven’t spoken to Tony yet about this time, but hopefully he can get it right.”

Hugh Bowman is optimistic Lor-trained Majestic Colour (130lb) can advance his Four-Year-Old Classic Series claims when he makes his Hong Kong debut in the Class 3 Pine Handicap (1400m).

Formerly trained in Australia by Kelly Schweida, Majestic Colour won four successive races in Queensland, including the G3 Winx Guineas (1600m) – the race named in honour of the champion mare Bowman partnered to 25 Group 1 wins.

“He comes here with some good form and some high expectations and it’s a good starting point for him at Sha Tin. I won’t rush him into a position but if we could find a spot midfield or even a bit handier, I would be satisfied with that but I’ll just ensure that he’s comfortable certainly for that first half of the race and I think if he’s even a good rhythm – and I can find that sweet spot – there’s no reason why he couldn’t really challenge late,” Bowman said.

Hugh Bowman extends a Winx link with Majestic Colour.
Hugh Bowman extends a Winx link with Majestic Colour.

“I think he’s forward enough to run very well. There’s no question that he’ll improve on what he does tomorrow and he’ll improve as the distance increases as well, so I’m as interested as everybody else to see how he does begin his Hong Kong campaign and I think it’s a great starting point and just to reiterate I think he’s coming off a pretty decent trial on the Sha Tin All Weather.”

David Hayes will unveil Flagship Warrior in the Class 3 Yan Chai Trophy Handicap (1200m), a four-time winner in South Australia, including the Listed Port Adelaide Guineas (1800m) at Morphettville in April, when he raced as Harleymoven.

“I liked his races in Australia, he showed electrifying turn of foot at times. He didn’t quite stay in the South Australian Derby, but in the lead-up races, he was terrific,” Hayes said.

“I thought his last trial was full of merit – he’ll be running on strongly on the weekend, but he’s got a very awkward gate.

“He’ll run a bit like Bon’s A Pearla did a couple of weeks ago. He’ll get back and charge home but it will be a huge effort if he can win – 1200m, 133lb and barrier 14. So, he’s short of his distance, wide and a big weight but I do think he’s very good.”

Saturday’s (24 December) 10-race card at Sha Tin starts with the Class 4 Amaryllis Handicap (1400m) at 1pm.

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