Horse Racing
Nightmare for So and Leung after Classic Emperor horror story

By Andrew Hawkins in Dubai
23/02/2018 10:20

Classic Emperor parades in the paddock ahead of his Meydan debut on Thursday night.
Classic Emperor parades in the paddock ahead of his Meydan debut on Thursday night.

Jockey Derek Leung and trainer Chris So were left to ponder what might have been after Classic Emperor’s Dubai campaign got off to a disastrous start at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday night (22 February).

Classic Emperor stumbled when breaking from the gates in the District One Mediterranean (1600m, dirt), throwing Leung to the ground and then trailing his seven rivals riderless.

“If it was in Hong Kong, I don’t think I would have come off him,” said Leung, who walked back to the jockeys’ room unscathed. “He’s never stumbled in Hong Kong like that. When he stumbled the first time, he tried to pick himself up and if it was on the Sha Tin all-weather, I think he would have been OK. But the track here is deeper and he couldn’t get his footing, so he stumbled again and I came off.

“It’s just bad luck, it happens. Hopefully the horse is able to come back in a couple of weeks and he can show the racing world what he can do.”

An initial post-race veterinary assessment saw Classic Emperor emerge with minor cuts, but otherwise in fine fettle. So wants to let the dust settle before deciding his next move with the Medaglia d’Oro six-year-old, but the most likely course of action is that the galloper will line up in the G3 Burj Nahaar (1600m, dirt) on Super Saturday, 10 March.

“I will talk to the owner and see what we do,” So said. “There may not be any other choice than to go to Super Saturday, and that would be my first thought, but I’m not sure if he will get in. Let’s wait and see how the horse is and we can plan from there.”

Classic Emperor had appeared fired up in the saddling enclosure and the parade ring pre-race, but Leung said he was a different horse when stepping onto the Meydan dirt, taking one positive from the outing.

“He felt great behind the gates,” Leung said. “In fact, I think he was more relaxed than I’ve ever felt him in Hong Kong. He felt ready to win and my confidence rose when I was out there. That’s why I was so disappointed that it didn’t go right.”

The race was eventually won by the Salem bin Ghadayer-trained Capezzano, who made most to record a gritty length and a quarter success under Mickael Barzalona. The finishing time of 1m 38.66s, So noted, was more than a second outside Classic Emperor’s winning time over the Sha Tin dirt 1650m.

“That gives me the belief that he can match these horses,” So said. “I’m not giving up yet.”