Champion trainer Ricky Yiu plots winning return for Excellent Chariot
April 16, 2021, 10:41:03 AM
Ricky Yiu, the reigning champion trainer, believes Excellent Chariot will return to the winners' circle in the Class 3 Devon Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Saturday (April 17).
A week before launching a three-pronged G1 attack on FWD Champions Day (Sunday, April 25) with Mighty Giant, Jolly Banner, and Voyage Warrior, the 2019/20 champion hopes Excellent Chariot will draw on the stable's strong start to April.
Yiu has had a consistent start to the month, with three winners, four minor placegetters, and some (four) fourths, and as he prepares to saddle six runners at Sha Tin this weekend, the trainer thinks Excellent Chariot will compete.
“He's up in distance, it's a bigger challenge for him, but he's a horse who still tries hard,” Yiu said of the Jimmy Choux gelding, who won consecutive 1200m races at Sha Tin earlier this season.
“He's more seasoned now, and it's perhaps time to step him up in distance, but he's still one of the young guns.
“We'll have to ride him for luck (from barrier 10 under Keith Yeung), ideally in the middle of the field with cover.”
Yiu will also be represented by Toycoon in the Class 4 Somerset Handicap (1800m), hoping the Turffontein gelding will live up to his pedigree and win his first Hong Kong race.
Toycoon, who won twice in South Australia as Rapid Bay when conditioned by Jake Stephens, had a peak ranking of 74 last season but has now fallen to 58.
“I believe this is about the appropriate ranking for him. “When he first arrived, his ranking was a little high,” Yiu said. “He was still getting used to it.
“He has a pedigree that indicates a jump up in distance would be beneficial to him. If there is a cut in the stone, it is also beneficial.”
Paul O'Sullivan believes El Valiente will win the Class 4 Norfolk Handicap (1650m) under Joao Moreira if he continues to progress naturally.
“Every time he goes home, he gets a little bit improved, and he doesn't need any change to be right there at the end. He's been working hard, he's got a decent draw (gate four), and a good jockey, so he can be competitive,” O'Sullivan said.
“He should be a few spots closer, if he can be three-back, one off the fence, it will be perfect for him. Hopefully, they'll go at a decent gallop and he'll be able to hold on.
“The chosen surface is soil. He's probably faster over 1800 meters, but he'll run well.
“He actually came here with a fairly modest experience, and it took a few barrier trials before he got to the races.
“He's gotten better with each race. Hopefully, he will be able to proceed in that vein.”
When You Believe, according to Antoine Hamelin, has the credentials to challenge for a first Hong Kong victory in the Class 3 Cornwall Handicap (1000m).
“He ran really well last time (finishing third to Valiant Dream and Brilliant Fortune at Sha Tin on March 13), and we're pleased with him,” Hamelin said.
“His trial (on April 9th) was also nice; he finished second. The signs are very promising.
“We have a strong draw (four) and everything seems to be in order for the chase. I believe we can get some protection and still have space at the end.”
Metro Warrior, conditioned by David Hayes, will also compete in the sprint course chase, the Cornwall Handicap, and the trainer claims the Fastnet Rock gelding will retain his form after finishing third in slick time last time out.
“I felt it was a personal best for Hong Kong. The two horses who defeated him (Winner Method and Brilliant Fortune) are bound for even higher class,” Hayes said of the four-year-success old's on March 28.
“He ran a fantastic time, smashing the 56-second barrier” (55.75s). He seems to have kept his form, and he has Zac Purton, so I believe he can run a decent race.
“He's in his division, potentially running in his class, and if he improves on his last start – and all indications are that he would – he should be in the top three.
“I believe he'll be a nice bread and butter Hong Kong Class 3 horse.”
Hayes will look to build on his recent success with Flying Sword in the Class 4 Kent Handicap (1400m).
“I favor him in Class 4 over Class 3, and 1400 metres or a mile here at Happy Valley are potentially ideal,” he said. “I believe he is competitive enough to win a Class 4 quickly, whether it is Saturday or the next race, but he has practiced well since the last run.
“He'll be victorious soon.”
With victories this month from Trader, Fearless Fire, Showina, and Fantastic Treasure, Hayes claims his stable is gaining critical momentum.
“At the end of the season, I'm very pleased by how these three-year-olds are beginning to develop. It's a major drawback to have unraced three-year-olds early in the season, but they come into their own as the season progresses,” he added.
“I have about 30 of them, and I can't wait for them to mature a little more.
“When they weren't set, I had just discards to run, and I'd go to the races with four 40/1 shots, and the business is still a nice guide. Now we're off to the races with horses in the market, so you've got a chance.”
The Class 5 Suffolk Handicap sets off Saturday's (17 April) 10-race card at Sha Tin at 1pm (1200m).