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Duke Wai, Apache Pass ready for South Korea challenge

September 7, 2023 at 4:57:39 AM

Trainer Pierre Ng is remaining upbeat about Hong Kong’s chances at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon (10 September) in South Korea when he saddles Duke Wai and Apache Pass for the G3 Korea Sprint (1200m, sand) and G3 Korea Cup (1800m, sand), respectively.

Trainer Pierre Ng is remaining upbeat about Hong Kong’s chances at Seoul Racecourse on Sunday afternoon (10 September) in South Korea when he saddles Duke Wai and Apache Pass for the G3 Korea Sprint (1200m, sand) and G3 Korea Cup (1800m, sand), respectively.

Ng’s duo was expected to trial on the dirt last Saturday (2 September) at Sha Tin, however, Super Typhoon Saola put a stop to that idea as well as Friday’s (1 September) contingency plan.

“Obviously it would have been better to have two trials before the run. But still, under the circumstances, we just have to do it this way and we’re happy enough with the horses. They showed they’re willing to do something and their fitness levels are up to standard and hopefully they settle in well.

“Eventually we got them both on the grass for a gallop on Sunday morning (3 September), which was quite impressive,” Ng said.

Apache Pass led Duke Wai home in 1m 26.6s (32.1, 31, 23.5) for their workout.

Both Duke Wai and Apache Pass have won on the dirt at Sha Tin, but Seoul’s sandy surface and ample kickback is a new confrontation as the gallopers look to secure Hong Kong’s second win in South Korea after Super Jockey’s 2016 Korea Sprint romp.

Duke Wai – an eight-year-old with 45 starts under his belt – has won nine races in Hong Kong and has placed at both Group 2 and Group 3 level at Sha Tin on turf. He also finished fifth in the 2023 G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) at Meydan in Dubai last March.

Apache Pass is a three-time dirt course winner and, while winless last term, proved competitive in Class 1 and Class 2 dirt contests at Sha Tin.

“They’re pretty much ready for the trip and hopefully we’ll do the last gallop later this week. It depends on the conditions and we’ll see how they go. Hopefully they both draw a gate, in the middle, and they can get a good position from there,” Ng said.

Australian rider Damian Lane, who has also enjoyed several successful stints in Japan, is booked to ride both of Hong Kong’s hopes at Seoul racing’s international showcase.

“Damian Lane is aboard – he’s familiar to Japan’s style of dirt racing. He has a lot of experience on that, so I wouldn’t think it’ll (the racing) be a problem for the jockey. We have a good jockey. Hopefully we can get some prize money,” the trainer said.

Both Duke Wai and Apache Pass wore pacifiers with cowls in their latest trial at Sha Tin, where the duo logged a one-two finish for Ng last month.

“Apache Pass was consistent (last season), we have made a gear change – he looks well in his trial. I’ve put on a pacifier with cowls, because of the kickback from the track in Korea,” Ng said.

This will be Ng’s second overseas tilt across his short career training after taking two runners to Dubai World Cup Night last March.

“I’m definitely driven but it also depends on the schedule. Let’s say for Apache Pass, there isn’t a race for him here in Hong Kong until the end of October, so that’s why we entered him and got in. It’s a very good schedule for him and a very good experience for the owner as well.

“Duke Wai – he’s always been close in Group 2 and 3 races and it is a Group 3 dirt race. His dirt form is good, he’s fresh enough and hopefully he can do something,” Ng said.

Japan has four contenders across the two features. Bathrat Leon and Remake feature in the Korea Sprint, while Crown Pride and Gloria Mundi line up in the Korea Cup.

Exciting local Global Hit shapes as a leading hope for South Korea’s Korea Cup chances as a five-time winner from seven starts, claiming the KOR G2 Minister’s Cup (2000m, sand) and KOR G1 Korean Derby (1800m, sand) impressively at his last two outings.

Last year’s winner of the Korea Sprint, Eoma Eoma, is expected to feature again as well.

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