“Pingwu Spark’s a very honest horse and last time at 1200 (metres) he ran a good time,” said regular partner Derek Leung. “Now he steps up to 1400 and I hope he can run well, I believe he’ll handle it. This time we’ve drawn the outside gate (12), so we’ll need luck. We’ll be positive though and I expect him to run well.”
Sacred Elixir (132lb) will step out for his Hong Kong debut in the 14-runner closer. Tony Cruz’s charge won the G1 J J Atkins (1600m) as a juvenile and last season ran second in the G1 Victoria Derby (2500m) under Sunday’s pilot Zac Purton. The former champion jockey has partnered the four-year-old in three recent barrier trials.
“Sacred Elixir hasn’t had a whole lot of groundwork,” Purton said. “He’s had those trials and the last trial wasn’t too bad – it was a bit of a funny-run trial, pace-wise. He was on his wrong leg up the straight and didn’t seem to be focused on what he was doing, so hopefully on race day he can sort that out, he’s going to need to.
“It’s a pretty strong race to step out in for your first time here but he did a good job overseas when he was racing there. If he can bring that to Hong Kong he should acquit himself well.”
The former Tony Pike-trained New Zealand-bred galloper last raced in March but has gone well previously after a break.
“I don’t know if he’s as forward at the moment as he would have been for those other runs previously,” Purton cautioned. “He’s a talented horse though, and if things were to go right it wouldn’t surprise if he did jump out of the ground but he might get better as we go along.”
In the afternoon’s third contest, the Class 3 L’Oreal Paris Handicap (1000m), the John Size-trained Hot King Prawn (121lb) will attempt to take his lifetime record to three wins from three starts under Purton. The southern hemisphere three-year-old, another exciting grey, slammed his rivals when winning a pair of Griffin contests down the straight last term and steps into open company for his first start this season.
“Hopefully he goes well,” Purton said. “I don’t think he’s improved dramatically, he feels like he’s much the same horse as he was last season; he’s a little bit older and a little bit more street-wise, but he definitely doesn’t feel like he’s any bigger or stronger.
“I think he does need to improve, I think he was racing against some pretty weak opposition last year. It wasn’t a vintage bunch of horses and now he steps out against some older, more experienced horses and he’s going to have to be right on his game.
Hot King Prawn has trialled three times this preparation and has looked comfortable without being tested.
“His trials are as good as they have been,” the rider said. “He’s always shown good speed, he’s always done everything right; his first couple of trials were nice and quiet and his last trial he did a little bit more. He seems to go well up the straight. His draw is not ideal but hopefully he can jump well and be right up there again and we’ll see what we’ve got.”
Sunday’s feature, the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m), is race seven on the 10-race card and is due off at 4.05pm.