Hong Kong celebrities Aerovelocity and Luger, who were both derailed by heart irregularities last year, are back in good health and trialing smartly in advance of their returns.

Aerovelocity proved himself as a world-class sprinter, sweeping the Hong Kong Sprint (G1), Japan’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1) and Singapore’s KrisFlyer International Sprint (G1). So when Hong Kong’s champion sprinter dropped back to last in his reappearance in the October 25 Premier Bowl (G2), something was obviously amiss. A post-race examination discovered that he bled, and much more worrisome, had an irregular heart rhythm. Shelved thereafter, Aerovelocity is now recovered and ready to get back into the game, as his easy win in a January 19 barrier trial implies. He wore a heart monitor during the exercise, and earned a clean bill of health.

“He went well, but just as importantly, his heart was good and he looks good,” trainer Paul O’Sullivan told the South China Morning Post (SCMP). “We went into his last start not knowing what was wrong, but not happy. We are a hell of a lot happier this time around.”

Aerovelocity will launch his comeback in the January 31 Centenary Sprint Cup, the first leg of Hong Kong’s Speed Series. He will meet defending champion Peniaphobia, last seen taking the December 13 Hong Kong Sprint title vacated by the convalescing Aerovelocity. Peniaphobia likewise warmed up in a barrier trial January 19, showing plenty of natural dash to win the turf tune-up. Looking past the Sprint Cup, a return trip to Meydan is in the cards for the March 26 Al Quoz Sprint (G1), in which Peniaphobia just missed last year.

Luger will also return on the January 31 card, in the Stewards’ Cup (G1) over a metric mile. The John Size trainee recovered from one episode of cardiac arrhythmia to win last March’s Hong Kong Derby, in a gutsy display to overcome a wide trip (and stamina doubts). Expected to pose a stiff challenge to Able Friend in the May 3 Champions Mile (G1), Luger was a subpar last of six – showing an irregular heart rhythm once again. Just when Size thought he’d get him back on song for the fall, Luger came down with an infection in a hind leg. Rather than pressuring the Choisir gelding to make the International races, the horseman gave him the extra time to point for the Stewards’ Cup. Luger has been working his way back into fitness. Second in a January 8 trial to up-and-coming stablemate Sun Jewellery (a top contender in Sunday’s Classic Mile), Luger just trialed again Friday and splashed home third (to stablemate and Stewards’ Cup opponent Contentment) while never asked at any point.

Another international dirt performer for Hong Kong? Add Master Kochanwong to the list of Hong Kong’s possible Dubai string. The fragile but brave gelding resurfaced from an eight-month layoff January 17 to land a Class 1 handicap on an off track, beating a few other Dubai candidates, notably Dehere’s the Love.

Speaking to the SCMP, jockey Douglas Whyte hailed Master Kochanwong as “one of the gutsiest, most determined horses I’ve ever ridden…He is just a little bulldog.”

Trainer David Hall added that Master Kochanwong has breathing problems, and foot issues complicated his preparation as well. Despite his physical infirmities, Master Kochanwong isn’t far off the form of another Hong Kong dirtballer, last year’s Golden Shaheen (G1) near-misser Super Jockey. He was third to Super Jockey in Sha Tin’s prep for the Dubai prize in 2015.

While Super Jockey is expected to try the Golden Shaheen again, so is compatriot Rich Tapestry. Runner-up to Sterling City in the 2014 Golden Shaheen on Tapeta, Rich Tapestry was third to Secret Circle and Super Jockey in last year’s running on the new dirt. American fans may remember Rich Tapestry for denying Goldencents in the 2014 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1). His trainer, Michael Chang, already has his Dubai agenda mapped out: according to the SCMP, Rich Tapestry will compete in the February 11 Al Shindagha Sprint (G3) and the Mahab al Shimaal (G3) on March 5 (Super Saturday) en route to the Golden Shaheen.

Winx begins to limber up for Australian autumn: Outstanding filly Winx, freshened since slamming world-class males in the October 24 Cox Plate (G1), posted her first barrier trial back on January 19. Under a snug hold by Hugh Bowman, the daughter of Street Cry ambled into third behind prolific sprinter Our Boy Malachi (who’s coming back from a bleeding episode and colic surgery).

Trainer Chris Waller discusses his plans for Winx, whose campaign is geared toward the lucrative Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Randwick – worth A$4 million on the second day of The Championships, April 9.

 

Xtravagant excuse: Boom colt Xtravagant, who was compared to So You Think after his rout of the New Zealand 2000 Guineas (G1), tired to fourth as the heavy favorite in the January 15 Levin Classic (G1) at Trentham. Connections cited course conditions, and you can see that he just can’t open up on the field as readily on rain-slowed going.

“He just didn’t cop that track,” jockey Matt Cameron said in a racenet.com.au report. We know he’s brilliant, we know he’s fast. I was under a little pressure holding him on to the turn, but he did not have his electric turn of foot on the track.

“This is not the grand final and we have bigger and better things ahead of him.”

One of those main objectives is the March 5 Australian Guineas (G1). Co-trainer Stephen Autridge told racing.com that’s still the plan, while commenting on the Levin Classic upset.

“The track was called a Dead 6, which is not meant to be too bad,” Autridge said of the Trentham surface, “but by the middle of the day they were racing on the outside half of the track and he just couldn’t get a footing or accelerate and I don’t think racing off the fence suited him.

“We’ll just run some tests on him over the next few days and make sure that everything’s all right.”

It wasn’t only Team Xtravagant blaming the course. None other than Lee Freedman echoed the complaint, tweeting, “Trentham a disgraceful surface for G1 racing yesterday. Might pay to be forgiving of Xtravagant.”

Remember Our Channel? The runner-up in the 2014 American Derby (G3), who flopped at the 2015 Dubai Carnival, has returned to good form for trainer William Haggas on the British all-weather scene this winter. The son of English Channel has apparently benefited from being gelded. Having won a useful-looking Chelmsford City handicap January 16, Our Channel is now in line for the February 27 Winter Derby (G3). But first he’s entered in a January 25 conditions race at Wolverhampton.

Silver State sidelined: Graham Pavey (@LongBallToNoOne) reports that Silver State has been knocked off the Japanese classic trail by a bowed tendon. The son of Deep Impact and multiple Group 3 heroine Silverskaya, and half-brother to Australian Group 1 winner Seville, had won both starts since his debut.

Where are they now: Multiple European highweight The Fugue produced her first foal, a dark bay filly by Dubawi, January 17. Watership Down Stud reports her arrival at 3:10 a.m. (British time). Great photo by @amylanigan1.

Australian Group 1 winner Manawanui is applying for a new career as a police horse.

This weekend: Saturday is a highlight on the South African calendar, with the Cape Derby (G1) and Majorca (G1) on tap at Kenilworth. [Edit: Got ahead of myself mentioning the J&B Met (G1) and Cape Flying Championship (G1) — they’re next Saturday, January 30.] In Saudi Arabia, Ron the Greek (aka Wattani) could seek to rebound in an about 12-furlong race (but no rider is listed in the entries). [Edit: And he was in fact scratched.] Sunday brings the opener of Hong Kong’s Four-Year-Old Series, the Classic Mile.

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Dispatch Box archives

1/15/16 – Inaugural post featuring Blue Creek, Lani, Vancouver, Able Friend