Two of Hong Kong’s rising stars will clash at Sha Tin on Saturday (8 February) when speedsters Voyage Warrior (133lb) and Duke Wai (118lb) meet in the Class 2 Choi Hung Handicap (1200m).
A second win this season for Voyage Warrior not only would continue his trajectory towards the elite level but also help trainer Ricky Yiu in his quest for a first trainers’ premiership, having lost the lead to Francis Lui at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Yiu’s Australian-bred chestnut indicated a bright future when he cruised to an easy four length debut win last season and then added a further two successes, with his sole defeat that term coming at the hands of the subsequent G1 placed, Thanks Forever.
This season didn’t begin as expected though, and after disappointing as a dominant 1.7 favourite first-up, the four-year-old then faded to 10th next time. Those efforts prompted his handler to mix things up.
“Voyage Warrior has been back and forth to Conghua since then – he’s now more relaxed and he’s done well heading into the weekend,” Yiu said, before adding “he’s a fresh horse – it was six weeks ago when he won and he’s freshened up nicely since then.”
The Declaration Of War gelding bounced back from those defeats with an easy three-length score down the 1000m straight on New Year’s Day but Saturday’s test poses a different threat as he tackles 1200m for just the second time, having failed at his previous attempt.
Voyage Warrior has the distinction of being one of only three horses in the past decade to have dipped below 55 seconds over 1000m at Sha Tin, the others being Yiu’s world champion Sacred Kingdom and current track record holder, Aethero (54.69s).