One of the lesser known teams that has shipped in for this year's Hong Kong International Races is the one surrounding the crack American speedster, Morluc. The 5-year-old, bay son of Housebuster was second to Falvelon, missing top money by just a head, in the 2000 edition of the Hong Kong Sprint. Morluc has been pointed all year towards another go in the race, and will fulfill that quest this coming Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse.In regards to bloodlines, there is nothing fluky about Morluc's speed. His sire was North America's sprint champion in both 1990 and 1991. Morluc's dam, Flashing Eyes, a daughter of Time to Explode, won five sprint stakes during her own racing days, including four that were run on the grass--which is also Morluc's forte.Neither is there anything fluky about the success of Morluc's team of handlers. The horse's trainer, 39-year-old Randy Morse, has been conditioning Thoroughbreds for 22 seasons, and headquarters his stable at prestigious Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. And Morluc's jockey, 28-year-old Robbie Albarado, has already registered over 2,200 victories during his riding career. In 1999, Albarado's mounts earned purses totaling US$10.8 million, a figure that ranked him eighth among all North American riders in that category.Morse is originally from El Paso, Texas. His grandfather and father also trained Thoroughbreds. Morse's first career winner came at a small track in Nebraska named Atokad Park. His string at Churchill currently numbers about 25. Morse has had stakes winners in his barn before. "But I'd have to say that when it regards to racing on the grass, Morluc's been my best," he said. Bred in Kentucky by a partnership that included the illustrious G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Morluc was initially sold for the bargain basement price of $11,000 at the 1997 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Morse subsequently plucked him out of a claiming race at South Florida's Gulfstream Park for $50,000. That turned out to be a huge bargain, too.To date, Morluc's career record includes 31 starts, nine victories, five second-place finishes along with five third-place finishes, and purse earnings of US$628,843 (a sum 57 times his original purchase price). Morluc campaigns for a longtime Morse client, Mike Cloonan, a real estate executive and home builder from Chicago, Illinois. It seems safe to conclude that Morse and Cloonan has made some pretty sharp decisions - - involving when to run their horse, and where. Morluc has been a winner during all four of the seasons that he has raced, and he has achieved multiple stakes triumphs during the most recent two, accounting for the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash at Kentucky Downs and the Nureyev Stakes at Keeneland in 2000; and the Aegon Turf Sprint Stakes at Churchill, coupled with a repeat score in the Nureyev, in 2001.The Kentucky Cup Turf Dash was recorded in a course-record clocking of 1:09.66 for six furlongs. That same season, Morluc established a course record in an allowance sprint at Churchill, registering a time of 56.06 for five furlongs. Throughout his racing career, though, Morluc has had to deal with tender feet, a circumstance that continually tests the skills of the people who own, train and ride him.
But Morse refuses to magnify the situation. "Morluc's hooves don't have a lot of wall," he said. "It's just the way he's made up. Yes, some trainers call them 'eggshell hooves.' He handles it, we handle it. Morluc's actually capable of stretching out to seven furlongs, even a mile. Right now, we've got him going short distances."The HK Sprint is 1000 meters long. Morluc's been pointed to the race. "Well . . . actually since we got beat in Hong Kong last year," said Morse. Morluc's now a year older, and Morse believes he's better.Meanwhile, another Nuclear Debate breezed three furlongs over the Sha Tin turf course Wednesday, but trainer Darrell Vienna wasn't there to witness the move. Vienna isn't expected to fly to Hong Kong from his Southern California base until Friday but his assistant trainer, Victor Tovar, was happy with the six-year-old's 600m workout.Tovar said of Nuclear Debate, who has only had one run since he moved to the States from France this season, "Nuclear Debate was not very well ridden at Hollywood. His jockey decided to turn into the straight five wide and then quickly made his move but came up empty approaching the finish."