Fight Hero ready for the big match
Fight Hero has made his name as a late-dashing stalwart of Sha Tin's all-weather circuit and the horse that so nearly gave Hong Kong a big Korean score in September returns to his own patch for a midweek pre-Christmas dirt track treat.
The French import has achieved all five of his Hong Kong wins over the course and distance of tonight's feature contest, the Class 2 Penfold Park Handicap over 1,200m.
Jockey Derek Leung was in the plate for two of those victories. He was also the man driving hard in Seoul when the seven-year-old powered through a gutsy stretch run to place a head second to Japan's Moanin in the Korea Group 1 Korea Sprint over 1,200m.
Fight Hero has finished down the field in a 1,400m turf contest at Sha Tin since then, but warmed up for this assignment last last month when first past the post in a course-and-distance barrier trial.
"There are not many options for him on the dirt in this class, so this is his target,"said Leung.
Trainer Me Tsui's charge will have to overcome top weight of 133lb (60.45kg) and barrier 11 in the 12-runner field, but Leung is expecting his mount to run his usual game race. Fight Hero has placed in the top four in 14 of his 19 races on dirt or sand.
"He always tries hard on the all-weather. He loves it, but it just depends how the track is running because he's a hold-up horse and sometimes he runs a fast last section but still can't catch them - it depends on how the race is run. We just want a good pace for him," said Leung.
And the rider believes the trip overseas might have helped the Footstepsinthesand gelding.
"In Korea, he gave me a really good feel," he said.
"In Hong Kong, he was always a bit nervous but, in Korea, he was relaxed and gave me what he had. Since he has come back, in his last trial, he felt much more relaxed. The trial was slow and he was able to go forward and he did it very well."
Tsui is running to an 18 per cent win strike rate in 1,200m races on the all-weather this term, while 10 of his 17 runners at that track and trip have finished in the top three.
While Fight Hero is an old hand at dirt track racing, at the opposite end of the handicap Mission Tycoon (113lb) is set to have his first race on the surface at his first start this term.
The Frankie Lor-trained four-year-old won his only two races in Australia pre-import and caught the eye last term when winning a 1,200m turf race at Sha Tin on his second of four outings.
Jockey Joao Moreira was in the plate for each of those Sha Tin contests but Karis Teetan takes the reins this time. The Mauritian has ridden the Written Tycoon gelding in two trials this season, latterly on Nov 30, when stretching out ahead of a smart batch that included the likes of Nothingilikemore and Tigre Du Terre.
"He's a very nice horse and he's been trialling very good on the surface. It's a good decision of Frankie to run him on the all-weather," said Teetan.
"He's fit and well, he's ready for the run. It would suit him if they go off pretty fast, he would like that. He showed in the trial that he can finish off.
"He's big and strong so I think wherever he can be he'll be comfortable and travelling and I'm pretty sure he'll let down in the straight."
The field also features the John Size-trained Gunnison (122lb) - runner-up at the course and distance last time out - and Calculation (130lb), a two-time course winner over 1,650m. - HKJC