Sidelined with serious injury during Hong Kong racing`s off-season, Vincent Ho hopes Dream Winner can provide the perfect return to competition when Frankie Lor`s unbeaten sprinter contests the Class 2 Causeway Bay Handicap (1000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (17 September).
Four-time winner of the Tony Cruz Award as Hong Kong`s leading home-grown jockey, Ho will take four mounts at the weekend as he plots a conservative course back to full capacity after suffering a fractured T5 vertebra, concussion and a rib fracture in a race fall at Niigata Racecourse in Japan on 29 July.
“It`s good to be back and looking forward for Sunday,” Ho, 33, said before riding in trials at Sha Tin this morning. “It was a massive fall and a serious injury on the spine. It`s better to be cautious about. I`m grateful the Club never pushed me, even the CEO (Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges) was asking me to be patient.
“I`m feeling confident. The first two days back riding, I still had some doubts but the past few days I`ve felt completely fine and got my confidence back that I won`t feel pain on a horse.”
Ho is excited over Dream Winner`s potential after the now four-year-old reeled off a trio of victories over Sha Tin`s 1000m course last season. The Exosphere gelding will carry only 120lb in his Class 2 debut on Sunday, when he faces Kurpany (133lb), Ping Hai Galaxy (130lb), We Are Hero (129lb), Whizz Kid (129lb) and Carroll Street (124lb).
“He (Dream Winner) has got nice potential, a big baby - he`s still got plenty to learn but has definitely got potential. I galloped him yesterday (Thursday, 14 September) and he felt nice. Let`s see how he goes on Sunday - first race of the season after a break,” Ho said.
“He`s still mentally a bit immature, but I think he`s fine. We`ll see how much he has improved this season, he`s still a baby and still got a lot to learn so let`s see how quickly he can do that.
“He`ll need more experience and education, but I think he shows he can go longer (in distance), but we`ll see how he will handle the turns (in future). He`ll have to learn all of that later.”
Lyle Hewitson, who rode 50 winners last season, is optimistic Dragon`s Luck can enhance a consistent record with a good showing in the Class 3 Admiralty Handicap (1200m), where he will face five last-start winners - Super Fortune, Joyful Hunter, Let`s Do It, California Vanes and Fun N Glory.
“Last season, he (Dragon`s Luck) put together a good string of wins and he was consistent throughout the season bar the one run where he had the excuses. He came back in pretty good form and I think this season his trials have shown he`s still in good form,” Hewitson said.
“We`ve got a good draw, hopefully he can put up a good performance and get back to his winning ways. His form is strong, he`s a lovely horse and the day he fluffed his lines, he had a genuine excuse. You really can`t fault him, he`s done really well.”
Sunday`s (17 September) Sha Tin card starts with the Class 3 Tai Hang Handicap (1200m, dirt) at 1pm.