Trainer evasive on Elusive State's future
Millard's dirt specialist rumoured for Dubai carnival or new Saudi Cup following impressive Sunday win
Trainer Tony Millard remained evasive regarding plans for Elusive State, after his talented dirt specialist posted an impressive win in the Class 2 Kwangtung Handicap Cup over 1,650m at Sha Tin on Sunday.
"We've got a plan for him, so we hope we can pull it off. I had an international jockey get hold of me, so I've got a plan. We'll see what happens now, see how he pulls up," the handler said.
The rumour mill has thrown around plenty of conjecture in recent days about whether or not Millard might send Elusive State (rated 96 for Sunday's test) to the Dubai Carnival or even the new Saudi Cup early next year.
Millard would not be drawn.
Part-owner Eden Wong was a little more forthcoming but reluctantly so.
"I hope he gets enough points to go to Saudi Arabia for the Saudi Cup but it's all up to the trainer and if the horse gets a high-enough rating," he said.
Either way, Millard's gelding will be rated above the 100 mark after this sixth win on the dirt and the handler knows his options on Sha Tin's inner "all-weather" are all but gone.
"It's very tough because we've got to get an international Group class dirt horse qualified by running on the grass, which is very tough, because there are so few races here in Hong Kong for him," he said.
Elusive State went off the 2.3 favourite, despite shouldering topweight of 131lb (59.5kg) in the nine-runner feature.
Three-time course winner Buddies (121lb) led the field under Grant van Niekerk but, when Joao Moreira switched out Elusive State at the top of the stretch, the front-runner looked vulnerable.
"When I pulled him out and gave him a clear run, I was always going to be the winner because I know his finish is strong, even if he was carrying topweight, he was giving me so much confidence through the race," said Moreira.
Elusive State closed through the final 400m in 22.99sc to score by 13/4 lengths in 1min 38.52sec.
"I wasn't very impressed with his barrier trial, to be honest - Tony was and I wasn't. But today I was very impressed," said the Brazilian.
"He's a nice horse and it's an amazing job from Tony, he has improved him tremendously. Being given this opportunity to ride him is a real pleasure."
Millard believes there is more improvement to come.
"We're very happy with the run, Grant said Buddies kicked and our horse still went past him," he said.
"He did everything we wanted and I think I can still get him better. He hasn't run since the sprint (first-up) and I don't know if there's going to be another race for him until December.
"I'm really stoked because it was a great run. He won with the authority we know he has. He gave the second horse 10 pounds and he gave him a hiding."
All nine of the afternoon's races were staged on Sha Tin's all-weather (dirt) track.
Moreira secured his second win of the day with a rail-running swoop, nailing section two of the Class 4 Shenzhen Handicap over 1,200m aboard the Francis Lui-trained Fortune Happiness.
The three-time Hong Kong champion jockey made it three-up when the David Ferraris-trained Bear Slam took the Class 3 Zhuhai Handicap over 1,650m.
That was the British Listed winner's first local success at the 13th attempt. - HKJC