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Manfred Man believes Big Time Baby is on the right track to book a ticket to Dubai at the end of March but it's a case of "one step at a time" for the 6-year-old who would move one stride closer with a smart run in the Class 2 Cha Kwo Ling Handicap (1200m, dirt) at Sha Tin on Wednesday morning.
"If he runs well then we'll look at if he can go - I would go with the horse, if he's invited of course, why not? But first let's see how he goes tomorrow night," Man said.
Big Time Baby (133 lbs) has surged to a career-high rating of 103 this season, scaling 16 points in his last five starts thanks to two wins on the dirt as well as a last-start runner-up effort behind Big Party in the G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1000m) on turf.
Race 8 at Sha Tin Aw on Wednesday, February 19 - Post 9:50 AM
|6||Big Time Baby||7-2||Matthew Chadwick
|K L Man Man|
|2||California Whip||33-1||Chad Schofield
|A S Cruz|
|8||Ugly Warrior||33-1||Grant Van Niekerk
|Y S Tsui|
|5||Moment Of Power||33-1||Alfred Ak Chan
|11||Fortune Booth||15-1||Alexis Badel
|12||Encore Boy||15-2||Karis Teetan
|1||Mr Croissant||15-2||Matthew Poon
|W Y So|
|9||High Five||40-1||Dylan Mo
|A T Millard|
|10||Mr So And So||50-1||Alex Lai
|C W Chang|
|3||Elite Patch||4-1||Vincent Ho
|K W Lui|
"Everything is fine with the horse, I am happy with him going into tomorrow night's race," Man said.
With that consistency coming to the fore, Man promptly entered the Irish-bred gelding for the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m, dirt) at Meydan Racecourse on March 28. The trainer previously saddled his star sprinter Eagle Regiment for a gallant third in the 2013 Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1000m) at Meydan.
"Eagle Regiment - he had no luck, he always had an issue with his shoes, they used to hurt his foot and he had that problem in Dubai but he still ran very well, he came third," Man said.
As well as his game Dubai placing, Eagle Regiment was withdrawn from the 2012 Al Quoz Sprint due to his feet issues, but Man did nurse the injury-plagued speedster to back-to-back HK Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1000m) wins in 2012 and 2013.
"If Big Time Baby can go, my stable would be happy," he said. "Tomorrow is not necessarily a test for him but it's the only race suitable for him then if he does run well, Dubai is more of a chance."
Regular race-rider Matthew Chadwick will be in the plate for Wednesday morning's test, having partnered the gelding to both of his dirt wins this term.
"It's very early days in regards to traveling overseas - we'll take it one race at a time but he's got a big heart, he's very consistent and he's also come back much better this season - he's more relaxed and mentally more mature," Chadwick said.
"I've only been to Dubai once - it's something I would definitely look forward to and I hope that I would be on the ride with him, but we'll take it one race at a time and if he comes with his best tomorrow then I don't see why he couldn't take it out."
Chadwick partnered the Group 1 winner California Memory to finish 12th in the 2012 Group 1 Dubai Duty Free (1800m).
Trained by Tom Dascombe pre-import, Big Time Baby arrived in Hong Kong off the back of a five-start career in Great Britain, which culminated with a win in the Listed Roses Stakes (1000m) at York.
"He's a very consistent horse, he's performed well on the turf as well but he is better on the dirt: he definitely does find a few more lengths as he just likes that little bit more give in the ground because he's able to stride through it a bit better, rather than running on top of it," Chadwick said.
The Dandy Man gelding is now a four-time winner on the dirt and also boasts an impressive runner-up effort to Aethero at Class 2 level this term, a race in which that galloper managed to lower Sacred Kingdom's long-standing 1000m Sha Tin track record to :54.69.
"He's got a bit of a quality which helps and he's one horse I always look forward to riding. The owners have been very good to me and kept me on, so it's nice to stick with them and to be able to have that feeling going into the races," Chadwick continued.
The jockey, though, hinted at a slight concern with the prospect of carrying 133 lbs against the field.
"It's an interesting race on paper," he said. "I think the weight is the biggest negative but still he has the ability and I have confidence in my fella - he's working well, Manfred (Man) has him going well, he's made sure he is freshened up for this fit so he should be going into this race nicely prepped."
The 6-year-old gelding faces 11 opponents in Wednesday's six-furlong dash, including six-time course and distance winner Ugly Warrior (125 lbs), who has struggled to recapture his best form following a run in the KOR Group 1 Korea Sprint (1200m, sand) in Seoul.
"He's happy since he's returned from Korea, after a few races his condition has returned and he's found himself now," trainer Me Tsui said, adding, "No more blinkers, I think they made him a little bit nervous but he trialed well last week and I am happy with him."
Grant van Niekerk will be in the plate for the first time at the races and the 28-year-old remained optimistic about the galloper's chances of sparking a return to form.
"His trial was really good with me, he's a horse that's pretty good on the all-weather track - so if he can find his previous form on the track he'll be very competitive," Van Niekerk said.
"He just has to find a little bit of his old form back to be competitive - he's beaten some really good horses before and quite comfortably, so I'm excited about riding him."
Also in the field are California Whip (128 lbs), Gunnison (122 lbs), Elite Patch (113 lbs) and Encore Boy (119 lbs). The last-named, like Big Time Baby, is a two-time course and distance winner this campaign.
"Encore Boy is going well, he's done well in Conghua, he's held his form; the wide draw makes things difficult but he'll run well because I feel he is half a class better on the dirt than the turf," said championship leading trainer Ricky Yiu.
Wednesday's eight-race card at Sha Tin commences at 6:15 a.m. ET / 3:15 a.m. PT with the Class 5 Tseung Kwan O Handicap (1200m).
Race 1: #5 Royal Chocolate, #10 Exponents, #12 Nashashuk, #2 Pleasant Guy
Race 2:: #2 Super Red Dragon, #10 Mi Blanco, #6 Sky Gem, #8 Hidden Spirit
Race 3: #6 Wonder Brahma, #7 Excel Delight, #11 Iron King, #9 After Me
Race 4: #5 Coolceleb, #6 Party Genius, #9 Daily Beauty, #4 Zero Hedge
Race 5: #1 Best Alliance, #12 Megatron, #13 Curling Luxury, #8 Mister Monte
Race 6: #8 Will Power, #5 Whiskey Neat, #1 Red Desert, #3 Silver Fig
Race 7: #1 Holy Heart, #6 Red Elysees, #7 Enfolding, #5 Volpino
Race 8: #1 Big Time Baby, #3 Ugly Warrior, #12 Elite Patch, #7 Encore Boy
#5 Royal Chocolate is winless across 24 starts. Still, he has been racing well of late and his previous trials on the surface have looked sound. He has drawn to find the front here for Karis Teetan and with even luck early, he could take plenty of catching.
#10 Exponents is a course and distance winner. He has been consistent all term and the low draw, as well as Dylan Mo's 4lb claim should see him fight out the finish.
#12 Nashashuk has the wide gate to overcome but with the in-form Alexis Badel up he can figure.
#2 Pleasant Guy is very lightly raced but has shown steady improvement across his short six-start career. He won't be too far away.
#2 Super Red Dragon narrowly missed last time out over this course and distance. He'll need to overcome the wide gate, but he appears to have found a suitable race to breakthrough in.
#10 Mi Blanco rattled home from the tail of the field to grab third last time out. He has proven himself as a consistent customer over this course and distance and his best should see him in the finish.
#6 Sky Gem got off the mark two starts ago. His sole run on the dirt was sound as he flashed home from the rear of the field and with a race run to suit here, he can figure.
#8 Hidden Spirit is a two-time course and distance winner. He should get a nice run from the inside draw which will afford him every opportunity.
#6 Wonder Brahma steps out for his first try on the dirt under race conditions. He has trialed impressively on the surface previously and if he brings his turf form across, then he's going to be in the thick of it.
#7 Excel Delight got off the mark over this course and distance last start. He remains in Class 4 which is suitable, and another win would not surprise.
#11 Iron King appears ready to finally put it all together. His last three runs have caught the eye and with Joao Moreira now taking over, he warrants respect.
#9 After Me is a two-time winner already this campaign. The booking of Alfred Chan for this suggests he's going to roll forward from the inside gate and try to pinch this.
#5 Coolceleb does his best racing on this surface, especially as a two-time course and distance winner. He has drawn to get the right run and although his form of late hasn't been close to his best, he's probably going to be good value to bounce back which he has done previously.
#6 Party Genius steps out on debut for Douglas Whyte. He has caught the eye at the trials, especially on the dirt where he managed to cross the line in first. This is a suitable race for him to debut in.
#9 Daily Beauty did well on debut before struggling at his latest. He trialed under a strong hold on the dirt recently suggesting that he can handle the surface and with Zac Purton retaining the ride for a third time he's expected to be thereabouts.
#4 Zero Hedge is consistent as ever. He can figure with the right run under Joao Moreira.
#1 BestAlliance narrowly missed two starts ago before struggling to make ground at his latest. Still, he has shown the ability and with a fast pace predicted here, he's one who is capable of capitalizing on this.
#12 Megatron is one of those likely to set a cracking tempo. He kept on well for second last time out and with the good gate here, he has likely to take running down.
#13 Curling Luxury is another who is likely to roll forward from the good gate. He's consistent and as a two-time winner already this term he warrants respect.
#8 Mister Monte gets the services of apprentice Alfred Chan who takes 10 lbs off his back. He's another who should ensure a fast run race and with race fitness under his belt, he can cling on for a check.
#8 Will Power has hit the ground running since commencing his career, winning both of his starts in an impressive fashion. He's the leading player here and it won't shock to see him tally a hat-trick of wins.
#5 Whiskey Neat caught the eye in a recent trial, closing very strongly from the tail of the field. He has shown little across his three starts but maybe now a switch to the dirt is what he needs to go on with things.
#1 Red Desert is unlucky not to have won a race already this term. He steps back into Class 3 which is suitable and from the good gate under Joao Moreira, he is capable of testing these.
#3 Silver Fig returns after bleeding in early January. His best is up to this as long as he's past that issue.
#1 Holy Heart has done everything right since his arrival to Hong Kong except win. He clearly handles the dirt as a two-time winner previously in Great Britain at Kempton Park and with a bit of luck on Wednesday, he can go on with it.
#6 Red Elysees steps on the dirt for the first time this term following largely frustrating recent run of outs. Tony Piccone takes the reins fresh off a double and with the right run he can figure.
#7 Enfolding is a two-time winner already this campaign. This is suitable if he can overcome the awkward draw.
#5 Volpino although winless, does have experience on his side and it should only be a matter of time.
A trip to Dubai is on the cards for #1 Big Time Baby who will need to put a big run in on Wednesday night if he wants to stamp his claims on that. He's risen to become one of Hong Kong's elite dirt gallopers and even still, his Group 3 placing last start on the grass to Big Party rates highly for this and with even luck he's going to take beating.
#3 Ugly Warrior has struggled to return to form following his Korea Sprint trip where he finished down the track. Still, a recent trial may have indicated a bounce back to form was on the cards and this race appears suitable for him to do so.
#12 Elite Patch tallied back-to-back scores before going unplaced at his latest attempt. He has drawn to get the right run and he can be a factor with only 113 lbs on his back.
#7 Encore Boy is a two-time course and distance winner already this term. He faces a stiff rise in class here but shouldn't be too far away if he has held his condition.
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