Yiu can do it, 'Chairman' Ricky
Leading HK trainer's Sprint Cup winner Voyage Warrior a good chance in the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize
Last Sunday's treble-scoring Ricky Yiu is having a wonderful season, leading the Hong Kong trainers' premiership table with his personal best of 52 wins.
It will get even better if he can lift the HK$18 million (S$3.3 million) Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize over 1,200m at Sha Tin on Sunday.
His rising sprint star Voyage Warrior has a good chance after his stunning all-the-way victory in the Group 2 Sprint Cup over 1,200m last time out on April 5. His charge can repeat the dose, as his 10 rivals on Sunday include all the seven horses he beat in the Sprint Cup.
"He's an improving young horse and I still can't see the bottom of him yet - there's a lot still to find out. He'll do well again over 1,200 metres on the big day,"said Yiu, known to Singapore racegoers as the trainer of the 2009 $1 million Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint winner Sacred Kingdom.
Yiu saddled Sacred Kingdom to 17 victories and his horse went on to attain world-champion status.
His other former Group 1 heroes included Amber Sky, winner of the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai, and Fairy King Prawn, who, like Sacred Kingdom, won the Hong Kong Sprint.
While Voyage Warrior has some ground to make up on that trio, Yiu is pinning his hopes on the second-season galloper finding further improvement.
The four-year-old chestnut gelding has shown a lot of potential, with a 50 per cent strike rate since his debut in March last year. He has won five of his 10 starts.
The Australian-bred wowed racegoers with a 54.89sec blitz down the 1,000m straight at his second outing.
His main rival on Sunday, Aethero, holds the track record of 54.69sec but has mixed his form this term.
But the John Moore stable believes Aethero could be the next superstar on the block.
The three-year-old chestnut galloper won the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint over 1,200m last November. But he was found to be sick after a game third in the Hong Kong Sprint a few weeks later.
He missed the break and then overraced in a disappointing return on April 5, when eighth in the Group 2 Sprint Cup over 1,200m.
Jockey Vincent Ho, who rode Voyage Warrior in his latest and biggest success, is under no illusions about his mount's easy front-running victory on the rain-affected ground.
"I stole that race. It was a cheeky win," he said.
"I think it was a big factor last time that he got to the front and it was difficult for them to chase me from behind that day.
"I think I got all the advantages. No-one wanted to lead, so I got a really soft lead. Because of the ground being wet, they couldn't make it up and I think on normal ground it will be tougher."
Like Yiu, he believes his mount can build on that performance though.
"If he has improved, he's still got ability to be there at the finish," he said. "He's still young, he hasn't been racing for a long time and, if he has improved, his chance will of course be higher."
Yiu does not think that Voyage Warrior needs to enjoy a soft lead to be effective, although his last win was on easy going and off steady fractions of 24.27sec, 22.29sec and 22.92sec, against the standard for the class of 23.80sec, 22.15sec and 22.45sec.
"This Group 1, against the same company as last time, will be very interesting because it might not be necessary to lead again. I'll leave it to the jockey," said Yiu.
"Before the last race, I didn't tie down Vincent with instructions, but I'm still thinking whether or not, there was a track bias last time, whether the cut in the ground was that big a factor.
But he's kept on improving and we'll find out on Sunday."
With Allied Agility taking the final race at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, Yiu has stretched his lead to five winners over Francis Lui for his first champion trainer title.
The Chairman's Sprint Prize win will add some icing on the cake.