Classic Mile could cast clues but is the Derby winner even among the nine entries?

Golden Sixty will be the favourite for the Hong Kong Classic Mile, but will he win the Derby? Photo by HKJC.

Classic Mile could cast clues but is the Derby winner even among the nine entries?

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

Michael Cox’s Derby Watch

In the lead-up to the 2020 Hong Kong Derby, Michael Cox will provide analysis  for Hutchi’s Honkers as the next generation of stars build up to the big race on March 20. The four-year-old series begins with the Hong Kong Classic Mile on January 27, continues with the Hong Kong Classic Cup on February 23 and culminates with the Derby on March 22.

 

21/01/20

There was something underwhelming about seeing just nine horses among final entries for Monday’s Hong Kong Classic Mile, but history tells us we should keep our expectations in check – at least from a Derby perspective – about the first leg of the four-year-old series anyway.

Even though Hong Kong racing fans have been charting the progress of Derby candidates for a while now, Monday’s race is the first hard marker in terms of a way to compare four-year-olds.

The top two horses in most people’s Derby reckoning – More Than This and Beauty Legacy – will be there on Monday, as will a standout mile prospect in Golden Sixty. With them all at level weights and heading for a date with destiny in late March, Monday’s race is one to watch again and again for insight and analysis.

 

Early Derby fancy Beauty Legacy will compete in the Classic Mile on Monday.

 

It just might pay to beware of declaring the winner Derby material, for despite recent winners going on to claim the big one, it is more likely that it is simply the best miler – not the best Derby prospect – that prevails on Monday.

Yes, two of the last three Classic Mile winners – Rapper Dragon (2017) and Furore (2019) – went on to clinch the Derby, but what jumps out from a look at the Classic Mile is a host of top sprinter-milers who were found wanting over further.

The Classic Mile has been run since 1980 and for many years was the main Derby lead-up, but we will keep historical comparisons to 2006 and beyond, a period where the 1800m Classic Cup was created as the second leg of the four-year-old series and dedicated “Derby trial” (which the race was officially named until 2010).

Since 2006 subsequent international Group One winners Beauty Flash (2010), Lucky Nine (2011), Gold-Fun (2013), Able Friend (2014) and Beauty Only (2015) have won the race, but none was able to win their Derby and each of them won at the top level over a mile or less.

Even if Beauty Legacy and More Than This would sit atop a pre-post betting market for the Derby right now, many top prospects are plotting a path through handicaps and planning to join the Derby path for next month’s Classic Cup.

Caspar Fownes-trained Columbus County – an encouraging second when second-up last start over a mile – is one, while trainer Tony Cruz has also opted for an alternate route with Private Secretary.

 

Private Secretary won’t compete in the Classic Mile. Photo by HKJC.

 

Frankie Lor has Decrypt entered in the Classic Mile but is charting a path via handicaps with Super Oasis and Reliable Team, horses that have already been stretched to 1800m.

Other than the aforementioned Rapper Dragon and Furore, Helene Mascot (2008) is the only other Classic Mile winner to go onto to win the Derby, although Floral Pegasus was beaten a nose in the 2007 edition.

So while three of the last 14 Classic Mile winners completed the Derby double, nine of the last 14 Derby winners did not run in the Classic Mile at all including champions Viva Pataca (2006) and Ambitious Dragon (2010), plus freak one hit wonders Luger (2015) and Ping Hai Star (2018).

While there doesn’t appear to be a four-year-old of that calibre lurking outside the Classic Mile it still shows the need to look a little deeper and keep an open mind when analysing Monday’s showdown.

Perhaps the Classic Mile can be seen as a guide to greatness, but as a guide to Derby success it needs to be treated with caution.

 

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Make sure you buy Hutchi’s analysis to get his assessment of Hong Kong racing, with the Chinese New Year meeting on Monday 27 January at Sha Tin! Get analysis of all races on the card, including his successful Best Selections and Strategies.

Also NEW for subscribers is the addition of “HH Live”, updates on raceday, including reads on any track patterns, prices moves, best lays and track whispers!


The contrasts of Size and Cruz as Hong Kong's mega-owners chase elusive Derby glory

The Derby is the most sort-after prize of Hong Kong Jockey Club-owners. Photo by HKJC.

The contrasts of Size and Cruz as Hong Kong’s mega-owners chase elusive Derby glory

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

Michael Cox’s Derby Watch

In the lead-up to the 2020 Hong Kong Derby, Michael Cox will provide analysis  for Hutchi’s Honkers as the next generation of stars build up to the big race on March 20. The four-year-old series begins with the Hong Kong Classic Mile on January 27, continues with the Hong Kong Classic Cup on February 23 and culminates with the Derby on March 22.

 

17/01/2020

The differing paths of top contenders Beauty Legacy and Private Secretary not only makes for a fascinating study in the approach of the two horses’ trainers, but also encapsulates so much about what makes the Hong Kong Derby great.

Beauty Legacy is with John Size, an Australian trainer famous for his patience and long-term planning. Tony Cruz, a local legend, whose style is the antithesis of Size’s, prepares Private Secretary. Cruz’s stable is all about speed – fast gallops, aggressive race tactics and getting horses to peak fitness early. Size doesn’t let his horses off the leash in trackwork and favours long swims and hand-led walks to build fitness.

Comparing Cruz and Size is short-term versus long-term, win now versus “horse first”.

The fact the two horses are owned by Hong Kong’s biggest spending, and arguably most successful, owners adds intrigue. Beauty Legacy is raced by the Kwok family, and Private Secretary by the Sius, with the fact that neither of the families have won the Derby providing an even greater sense of urgency to the horses’ preparations. Beauty Legacy and Private Secretary are big money purchases from opposite sides of the planet, for two groups of mega-rich owners willing to spend more than the Derby’s first-prize cheque in search of glory.

Both horses appear to have bright futures ahead of them but the lack of a Derby trophy for either family – between whom a strong big race rivalry has developed over the last decade – means there is a sense that Derby success trumps any long term plans for both camps.

Hong Kong’s Derby can’t claim the world recognition of the Kentucky Derby, or the pedigree defining influence of the original Derby at Epsom, but it does have a unique impact and stands as the race the jurisdiction’s owners want to win most.

 

The connections of Furore celebrate winning the 2019 Hong Kong Derby. Photo by HKJC.

 

What makes the Hong Kong Derby unique is it’s for four-year-olds – where the vast majority of Derbies around the world are for three-year-olds – which means that cashed-up owners with what is called a Private Purchase Permit (PP) can scour the globe for horses that have shown talent as two and three-year-olds.

This year-round bloodstock buying spree creates a fascinating dynamic in Hong Kong’s Derby, which has developed into a melting pot of pedigrees. Nowhere else do elite prospects from both hemispheres square off on such a scale, and certainly not for such high stakes.

It isn’t just a share of the HKD$20 million mega-owners like the Kwoks and Sius are after, it is bragging rights and a place in history.

Both families have had their share of Derby contenders, and plenty of champions. The Kwoks currently have reigning two-time horse of the year Beauty Generation carrying their pink, black and white colours, while The Sius – with their distinctive black-and-red striped silks – most recent top horse was Time Warp – a two-time Group One winner.

As good as those horses are – and they come from the same crop – neither was good enough to win their Derby.

Beauty Generation did give the Kwoks their best finish in a Derby when third behind the mighty Rapper Dragon and enigmatic Pakistan Star in 2017.

Beauty Legacy could be the one, and judging by the patience, race placement and ingenious race tactics employed by Size, this preparation is all about the Derby.

 

Beauty Legacy won his first start in Hong Kong very impressively under Joao Moreira. Photo by HKJC.

 

When racing in Australia as Hawkshot, first with Darren Weir and then with David Hayes, Beauty Legacy did his best racing on the speed. Yet Size’s long-term vision ensured that a change of style was necessary upon arrival at Sha Tin.

In trials jockey Joao Moreira was instructed to drop Beauty Legacy back in the field in an effort to teach the horse to switch off and relax in the run – an attribute that is necessary for Derby winners.

Another unique aspect of the Hong Kong Derby is that it is contested over 2000m – at least 400m short of the stamina tests that most Derbies are designed to be. The Hong Kong Derby is also run on a two-turn course on which the starting gates sit precariously close to the first turn. That means the race shape is generally fast early as jockeys vie for an inside position, then slow through the middle stages down the back straight as riders attempt to conserve energy for a sharp sprint home.

That stop-start race shape means the Hong Kong Derby is as much a test of tractability, temperament and racing manners as it is stout breeding.

Beauty Legacy’s local debut unveiled a serious contender and was testament to Size’s careful management and Moreira’s deft execution.

Another masterstroke was entering Beauty Legacy in a 1400m Class Two in which there would be a solid enough tempo, rather than at a mile where the speed can slacken suddenly and result in a horse over-racing and wasting precious energy too early.

Drawn barrier 12, Moreira dropped Beauty Legacy back, stayed inside of horses and allowed the gelding to enjoy his racing – before unleashing a sprint. The resounding win that pushed the horses rating into triple figures, was a bonus really, the biggest result was that the horse raced like a Derby winner needs to – relaxed and under control.

Like Beauty Legacy, Private Secretary stormed to a first-up win in Hong Kong  – something very few PPs are able to do.  Thrown in against battle hardened older horses, and sometimes still struggling to acclimatise to the testing conditions, it can takes months for highly-rated imports to start showing their best.

 

Private Secretary announced himself as a Derby contender by winning at Happy Valley recently. Photo by HKJC.

 

This was the case with Time Warp, who wasn’t ready for the 2017 Derby, but flourished the following season.

Private Secretary’s local debut over 1650m at Happy Valley late last month showed all of the previously mentioned attributes needed in a Derby winner: early speed, tractability and an explosive turn-of-foot.

So what went wrong second-up when Private Secretary faded to finish tenth over a mile at Sha Tin next start?

It was a tactical misstep by either trainer or jockey Tony Piccone to push hard early in the race, which resulted in being part of a speed battle and Private Secretary’s competitive instincts kicking in. Private Secretary raced fiercely, burned up energy and had nothing left for the stretch run.

Hopefully for Cruz, Private Secretary’s bad manners don’t turn into bad long-term habits.

The traditional pathway to the Derby starts with the Hong Kong Classic Mile on January 27, but again the two diametrically opposed trainers have opted for different approaches.

Beauty Legacy will start as one of the leading chances in the race – but with his bigger target, the Derby, in mind, while Cruz will chart a path via handicaps with Private Secretary.

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Make sure you buy Hutchi’s analysis to get his assessment of Hong Kong racing, with the next meeting Sunday 19 January at Sha Tin! Get analysis of all races on the card, including his successful Best Selections and Strategies.

Also NEW for subscribers is the addition of “HH Live”, updates on raceday, including reads on any track patterns, prices moves, best lays and track whispers!


Michael Cox’s HK Six-up: Yiu could be a contender... but needs to consider the consequences of a championship chase

Trainer Ricky Yiu could be a contender… but needs to consider the consequences of a championship chase. Photo by HKJC.

Michael Cox’s HK Six-up: Yiu could be a contender… but needs to consider the consequences of a championship chase

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

27/12/19

 

News that the season finale has been scheduled for Happy Valley – with a replacement fixture slated for July 15 – brings to mind the last time it was held at the city track and one of the greatest moments in Hong Kong racing history.

In July 2013 Dennis Yip secured the title in the final race of the season in front of a capacity crowd and became the first Chinese trainer to take the crown since his former boss Brian Kan 12 years earlier.

 

Dennis Yip became Hong Kong Champion Trainer in 2013. Photo by HKJC.

At the time it was thought that it would take at least that long to happen again, given the dominance of expat trainers John Size, John Moore and Tony Cruz (of Macanese descent) – but could a Chinese trainer take the title in 2020?

With just over one third of the term completed, local trainers fill the first three spots on the championship ladder: Ricky Yiu (27 wins), Francis Lui (22) and Danny Shum (20).

Shum’s more consistent record in recent years – he has finished in the top five for the last five seasons – has him rated the best chance of mounting a Yip-like upset, but could Yiu be the roughie?

With Lui and Shum notoriously fast starters it is Yiu that is the real surprise of the trio.

Yiu needs just two more wins to match his entire win total from last season and the 25-season veteran is on track to match his career high of 49 wins set in 2010-11.

In the cyclical handicapping system a poor season can often precipitate a bounce-back campaign where horses that have dropped in the ratings can surge back into form. And so it was for Yiu: a slow end to last term – he had one win from 26 starters in July – wasn’t a bad thing.

Also in Yiu’s favour is that he now has horses based at Conghua, giving him eight extra boxes for the late season haul. He has 69 horses and the right sort of stable balance if he wants to mount a championship challenge.

While older horses like Simple Elegant (three wins), King’s Man (two wins) and Megatron (two) have got the momentum going, Yiu has a host of untapped talents ready to unleash.

Yiu has 15 52-raters and others like Colonel – a three-year-old PPG that was third on debut two weeks ago at Sha Tin – that could provide ample ammunition should the trainer choose to mount a challenge.

Of course that challenge – which would mean running horses during the stifling summer heat when he otherwise might not – comes with a consequence and Yiu might wisely choose not to challenge at all.

The aftermath of Yip’s sole championship stands as a cautionary tale for those chasing one-off glory.

Yip had clawed his way into the upper bracket of trainers but after throwing everything at the 2013 title, his results dropped sharply in the following season, from 69 wins to 35 in 2013-14, and then less than 40 wins in the following three campaigns. After slowly climbing the ranks and establishing himself, it could be argued that the effort of that championship – horses pushed to their ratings limits, and young horses sent to the races too soon – put Yip in a rut he is still climbing out of.

Given Yiu can qualify for an extension by finishing top-five in the championship in three seasons from now, a more long term conservative view might be the way to go.

Even though John Size has just 14 wins so far, the 10-time champion would still be a strong favourite to secure his fifth straight championship.

 

Diversity and Badel rising

As great as jockey championship battles between Joao Moreira and Zac Purton are, having them win more than one third of the races between them is a bit much and the diversity of results recently can only be healthy.

Last weekend eight different jockeys won on the ten-race card and while the spread of winners wasn’t so great on Thursday, Alexis Badel continued his hot form with a treble.

After a slow start, the lightweight Frenchman has five wins from his last two meetings and seven wins from the last four fixtures.

Of particular note is Badel’s riding at Happy Valley, a course that should be as foreign as it gets for a jockey used to the likes of Longchamp and Chantilly.

Alexis Badel rode another three winners at Happy Valley last night. Photo by HKJC.

Badel has embraced the challenge of riding at Happy Valley, often employing unexpected tactics and it has paid off with a strike rate of close to 10 per cent during various short stints over the last three seasons, a rate that far outstrips his return on the Sha Tin turf (6 per cent).

 

No spark for Pingwu

Hong Kong’s biggest horse may have run his last race after Pingwu Spark refused to load before a barrier trial at Sha Tin on Tuesday.

Once Pingwu Spark, a 1300-plus pound behemoth, made a habit of digging his heels in behind the barriers it was always going to be an uphill battle to rehabilitate him.

Pingwu Spark looks to have run his last race in Hong Kong. Photo by HKJC.

The giant grey was already on a strict watch from stewards after refusing to load before the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint in November, the same race Pakistan Star stopped in and subsequently ended his career.

 

2020 Derby vision

The 2020 Hong Kong Derby crop has been underwhelming so far.

Outside of Francis Lui’s More Than This – the nominal top-pick – there is a distinct lack of depth, but Private Secretary did everything right at Happy Valley on Thursday to put himself in the reckoning.

Private Secretary was very impressive winning his Hong Kong debut. Photo by HKJC.

There was a lot to like about Private Secretary’s performance, not least of all the fact the northern hemisphere three-year-old was able to do it first-up after more than six months since his last race.

To give you an idea of how rare that feat is, the last Private Purchase to win at Happy Valley at his first run in Hong Kong was subsequent horse of the year and G1 winner Military Attack in 2012.

Private Secretary’s last two runs were a win over 2240m in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood and a fourth over 2392m in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

That type of staying form can see a horse outpaced for early speed or a turn-of-foot upon arrival in Hong Kong, but Private Secretary showed an abundance of both at his local debut.

Happy Valley’s 1650m, with its sharp dash to the first turn, is a serious test of early foot speed but Vincent Ho was able to take advantage of barrier one by maintaining a box-seat position.

Then, when asked to take the rail at the top of the short Valley straight, Private Secretary burst through with a race winning turn-of-foot.

 

There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to Tony Cruz’s race planning at times, but you can’t doubt his big race results and he seems to have Private Secretary on track to give the big-spending Siu family their first ever Hong Kong Derby success.

 

2021 Derby watch

While the 2020 Derby class may lack depth, 2021 already looks like an intriguing crop based on the depth of the three-year-olds in both hemispheres, and the Sius may already have a leftfield contender.

Last week Edmond Siu-owned Kilindini showed a brilliant turn-of-foot to win the Group 1 Cape Guineas at Kenilworth.

Hong Kong trainer Tony Millard will prepare Kilindini after sourcing the colt for Siu from the 2018 Bloodstock South Africa National Yearling Sale.

“I can’t thank Tony Millard enough,”said Cape-based trainer Brett Crawford, who predicted a bright future for the colt once he makes his way to Millard at Sha Tin: “He’s progressive and will only get better.”

 

Aethero-less Griffin Trophy underwhelms

The Griffin Trophy isn’t a race that usually creates a big impression but this year’s edition – essentially a HK$2million maiden – is particularly underwhelming.

Then again, had the Griffin-qualified Aethero been healthy, it would have simply been a one-act affair with a money-back favourite going around for practice.

Of the eight entrants for Sunday’s race, none have won previously, and only two – likely favourite Lucky Quality and Rich And Lucky – have placed.

Lucky Quality went within a whisker of winning on debut just over two weeks ago when third at Happy Valley and should be suited by a step up to 1400m.

 

_______________________________________

 

Make sure you buy Hutchi’s analysis to get his assessment of Hong Kong racing, with the next meeting Sunday 29 December at Sha Tin! Get analysis of all races on the card, including his successful Best Selections and Strategies.

Also NEW for subscribers is the addition of “HH Live”, updates on raceday, including reads on any track patterns, prices moves, best lays and track whispers!

 


Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Red tape delays mean Pakistan Star could miss Dubai World Cup carnival

Will we see Pakistan Star race in Dubai in 2020? Photo by HKJC.

Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Red tape delays mean Pakistan Star could miss Dubai World Cup carnival

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

20/12/19

 

Racing fans were thrilled to hear that Pakistan Star would be granted a second chance at racing but it seems Hong Kong Jockey Club red tape may get in the way of the horse competing at the 2020 Dubai World Cup carnival.

After Pakistan Star stopped again and refused to race in last month’s Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint and was likely to face compulsory retirement, owner Kerm Din decided to send the six-year-old to Dubai with American-trainer Doug Watson.

Din has received an invite to the carnival and is keen for his horse to race in Dubai – where many feel the German-bred gelding will thrive on the sand – but the clock is ticking for Pakistan Star if he is to be ready for the big races in February and March.

Pakistan Star hasn’t been in work in the month since the Jockey Club Sprint and Club officials have told Din his horse can’t be worked while spending two weeks in quarantine.

If Pakistan Star can leave on a flight late this month, as planned, it would mean he has missed six straight weeks and will be way behind the eight ball upon arrival with Watson.

“I hope I can get it sorted out because I don’t think he is an old horse and he still might have something to offer,” Din said.

“He might just need a change of environment. If he gets there and doesn’t want to race, that is fine, we will find a nice place for him to retire to in Australia, but we will give him a chance.”

Moore not panicking with Beauty

John Moore isn’t panicking when it comes to Beauty Generation’s “slump” and although he admits time may have caught up with his champion, there is still hope the two-time Horse of the Year can muster a few more big performances yet.

“Of course it is disappointing but if you look at the record it’s not as if he is being beaten very far,” Moore said.

After winning ten-straight races, Beauty Generation has finished third on three-straight occasions and Moore said the horse’s front-running style makes it hard to maintain top form.

“Well, he is always being taken on in front,” Moore said. “It makes it a lot harder, having to turn up every time and be at your best when you have horses breathing down your neck all the time. Maybe father time has caught up with him but I still hope that with a little bit of a break that he had after the Hong Kong Mile, that he can come back strong.”

John Moore is candid with his assessment of star horses Beauty Generation and Aethero. Photo by HKJC.

Where next for Aethero?

Beauty Generation was back in work on Wednesday but yet to reappear is beaten Hong Kong Sprint favourite Aethero, who presented with an elevated temperature post-race.

That means no Griffin Trophy on December 29 for Aethero but Moore said there are no serious issues with the three-year-old and he will reappear in the Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup on January 19.

“It has just all happened a bit too quick for him, and if he was back in Australia he would only have been racing against his own age group,” Moore said.

“Here he has been thrown in the deepest of deep ends. His rating means that is the only path for him and when he comes back it will be at top level. He will be in the Centenary Sprint Cup, the same day Beauty Generation returns in the Stewards’ Cup.”

 

Leftfield solutions for HKJC jockey recruitment

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Licensing Committee may need to cast the net wider and take some risks in the search for new talent if it is to invigorate a stale riding roster.

Two of the full-time riders – Aldo Domeyer and Umberto Rispoli – have bailed already, Alberto Sanna is out and another, Regan Bayliss, has announced that he too will leave mid-season.

If any of the freelance riders on the roster like Neil Callan or Lyle Hewitson – who is zero from 120 so far and must be seriously considering his future at Sha Tin – decided to opt out or aren’t asked back when their current licenses expire in February, where does that leave the club?

It used to be a case of simply looking to Sydney to find the next young star-on-the-rise, and that has served the club well with Zac Purton, Tye Angland, Tim Clark and Sam Clipperton all finding success to varying degrees.

South Africa too was a happy hunting ground for new, young talent with lightweights Richard Fourie and Mark du Plessis (via New Zealand), and now Karis Teetan and Grant van Niekerk, making an impact.

Now though there is a sense those wells may have run dry – things could work out for former Sydney-based rider Blake Shinn, but so far he is seven from 131 – and other left-field options may need to be scouted for talent.

Frenchman Tony Piccone is a start, but could an American jockey provide a late-season spark plug? What about taking a chance on some jurisdictions even further afield like Argentina, Canada, Mauritius or India?

Frenchman Tony Piccone is the latest addition to the Jockey Club riding roster. Photo by HKJC.

 

It is clear that Hong Kong is no longer the destination it once was to top Europeans and Australians, with many choosing prestige over prizemoney and the comforts of home.

If Hong Kong can’t have the best jockey roster in the world – which is a lofty ambition now that the season is stretching closer to 11 months – it should at least aim to have the most diverse and dynamic.

 

Jimmy gets the best from Star

The term ‘great training performance’ is usually reserved for top level wins but credit has to go to Jimmy Ting for bringing sprinter Amazing Star back this season for back-to-back wins.

Amazing Star moved to Ting last season but was repeatedly struck down with leg problems and lameness.

The sprinter raced just twice last season and was off the track for a full two months from midway through March.

A four-month stint at Conghua Training Centre and some patient planning has resulted in Amazing Star returning a sounder and stronger sprinter.

Amazing Star has been sensational for trainer Jimmy Ting. Photo by HKJC.

 

Wednesday’s cruisy Class 3 win was soft, and the sprinter still has to bring his best to the more testing terrain of Sha Tin, but Amazing Star will still get a few more chances at the Valley yet as he climbs towards a rating in the triple figures.

 

Computer Patch back-up is crystal clear

Every time you crack the screen on your iPhone, Computer Patch’s owner Yeung Kin-man gets a little richer.

Yeung owns Biel Crystal, suppliers of glass screens to Apple and although the 55-year-old dropped out of Hong Kong’s top-ten richest people list this year, Forbes estimates his net worth at US$2.4billion.

Computer Patch cost Yeung AUD $800,000 as a yearling and judging on his first up performance, is a reasonable chance of delivering a return.

From barrier 12 at his local debut, jockey Silvestre de Sousa restrained Computer Patch to the rear of the field before the three-year-old let down with a slick final-400m of 21.62 seconds, the only horse to break 22 seconds for that sectional on the day.

Computer Patch returns on a six-day turnaround with barrier five and Zac Purton will be aboard over the same course and distance.

With the natural speed to take up a better position and Hong Kong’s best tactician aboard, Computer Patch will be well found – which is scant consolation for those who were on at double-figure odds and left dismayed by the negative tactics last weekend.

 

________________________________

 

Make sure you buy Hutchi’s analysis to get his assessment of Hong Kong racing, with the next meeting Saturday 21 December at Sha Tin! Get analysis of all races on the card, including his successful Best Selections and Strategies.

Also NEW for subscribers is the addition of “HH Live”, updates on raceday, including reads on any track patterns, prices moves, best lays and track whispers!


Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Lor's Derby contenders down after Extra Brut death

The very talented Extra Brut was lost earlier this morning following a freak accident. Photo by HKJC.

Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Lor’s Derby contenders down after Extra Brut death

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

10/12/19

 

Frankie Lor’s chances of winning a second Hong Kong Derby suffered a severe body blow with the shock loss of Extra Brut in a freak walking machine accident early on Tuesday morning.

The 2018 Victoria Derby winner was due to trial on Tuesday but was killed when his head collar became attached to a walking machine and the four-year-old suffered a leg injury.

Lor’s opinion of Extra Brut had turned around from the horse’s early time in the stable. The expensive import, formerly trained by since-banned Darren Weir, had shown little in his initial trackwork and trials, but produced a barnstorming run from the rear to finish third first-up.

The third year trainer – who won the 2019 Derby with Furore – still has a handy string aimed at the autumn classic, with Decrypt and Super Oasis (ex-Surely Sacred).

Super Oasis made his first local appearance with a sound fifth behind early Derby elect More Than This on International Day and Dercypt – a 93-rater owned by Albert Hung of Rapper Dragon fame – makes his debut in a 1400m Class 2 (105-80) this Sunday at Sha Tin.

 

Cruz bullish about Derby hopes

With International Day behind us, attention turns to the four-year-old series, and Tony Cruz had a spring in his step at trackwork on Tuesday after Private Secretary’s trial.

Cruz has won the Derby twice as a trainer (Lucky Owners in 2004 and Helene Mascot in 2008) and loves what he sees in the Siu Pak Kwan-owned colt.

Private Secretary won three from six for John Gosden, including a Listed win over 2240m in the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood, and was fourth behind Japan in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“I really like this horse and that trial was exactly what we wanted,” Cruz said after the 87-rater worked home for second in his third trial for the trainer.

With two of those trials forward efforts over 1600m on the turf, Cruz may elect to throw Private Secretary into a Class 2 over 2000m on December 21 at Sha Tin for his first local run.

 

Pingwu pushed into gates

Problem horse Pingwu Spark was back at the trials on Tuesday as Jockey Club staff and jockey Derek Leung attempted to coax the 1300-pound plus behemoth into the starting stalls at Sha Tin.

Massive grey horse Pingwu Spark is closing in on his final warning. Photo HKJC.

 

The massive grey is essentially on a last warning from stewards after refusing to load before last month’s Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint.

Not only will the seven-year-old face compulsory retirement if he fails a barrier test in three qualifying trials, he will face the Club’s Board of Stewards with a recommendation to be retired if he refuses to load at any stage in the future.

 

Pakistan Star restart

Paul O’Sullivan is philosophical about his short time in charge of Hong Kong’s ultimate problem horse Pakistan Star, who will soon depart for a fresh start in Dubai.

While Pingwu Spark wouldn’t start in the Jockey Club Sprint, Pakistan Star did start, then soon stopped at around the same spot as his infamous “Pakistan Stop” incident in 2017.

O’Sullivan trained Pakistan Star for four fair efforts – two fifths, a third and a fourth – before the gelding dug his heels in.

“He was a freakish talent, but he was like an athlete that had all the talent in the world but all he wants to do is sit around drinking beer all day,” O’Sullivan said.

“I tried everything I could and hopefully his new trainer can get the best out of him. Maybe the new environment will help.”

 

Rispoli restart

Credit to Umberto Rispoli for refusing to accept mid-table mediocrity and relocating to United States to continue his career.

Rispoli has five wins from 100 rides so far this season but with another mid-season shake up of the jockey colony looming as others consider leaving (see next item), he could have easily chipped away and made a good living at Sha Tin.

A two-time champion in his homeland of Italy, Rispoli’s biggest Hong Kong win came on Rulership at the end of his first stint in 2012, and he has 117 winners to date.

 

Umberto Rispoli bowed to the crowd after he won the QEII abroad Rulership in emphatic fashion in 2012. Photo by HKJC.

 

Rispoli may be languishing near the bottom of the championship but he has big race blood in his veins and will begin an exciting new era based out of Santa Anita.

The 31-year-old will arrive in the United States as early as next week and will be represented by agent Ron Anderson, who told American outlet Thoroughbred Daily News that it Rispoli comes recommended by Frankie Dettori.

“He said the kid wanted to come to the US and asked if I would be his agent,” Anderson told TDN. “He is a two-time champion in Italy, has an American style and has an unbelievable work ethic. He’s ridden all over the world. He’s a world-class rider, has no bad habits and is a real professional. I’m excited to go to work for him.”

 

Wanted: world class jockeys

The Jockey Club is facing something of a recruitment crisis as the mid-season licensing announcement approach after youngster Regan Bayliss revealed that he would return to Melbourne in February after struggling at Sha Tin.

Come February and the mid-season licensing period, that will leave the Jockey Club down three of its full-time roster spots after Aldo Domeyer’s, and now Rispoli’s, early exits.

After closing the door on veterans like Gerald Mosse, Douglas Whyte, Olivier Doleuze and Brett Prebble – as well as the banning of Nash Rawiller – in recent years, the Jockey Club’s gamble on youth has failed.

After cherry picking the most promising young talents from Australia and South Africa, it would seem the club are now in a tricky spot. Australian Blake Shinn was meant to be the rider to fill the void left by his countryman Rawiller but he is currently five from 119 and needs to turn things around. The situation for South African young gun Lyle Hewitson is dire with a zero from 102 record.

The question is, who has the right resume, but wants to come mid-season and try to break into a top-ten that looks set. If anymore riders leave it will leave the Club scrambling to find three or more suitable applicants to finish the season.

 

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Make sure you buy Hutchi’s analysis to get his assessment of Hong Kong meeting number 26 this Wednesday at Happy Valley! Get analysis of all races on the card, including his successful Best Selections and Strategies.

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Michael Cox’s HK Six-up: Teetan the bunny on HKIR day, but can he hold on?

Karis Teetan will be riding three potential pace-setters on Sunday in three of the HKIR features. Can he have more Group 1 success?

Michael Cox’s HK Six-up: Teetan the bunny on HKIR day, but can he hold on?

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

02/12/19

 

There are no prizes for being in front at the top of the straight, but Karis Teetan could find himself turning first three times on International Day and is hoping his trio of pacesetters can keep him there.

All three of Teetan’s feature race rides on Sunday – Hot King Prawn (Sprint), Ka Ying Star (Mile) and Time Warp (Cup) (he doesn’t have a ride in the Vase) – do their best work from in front or close to the lead and the three speed horses provide an intriguing set of chances for the Mauritian.

 

Karis Teetan is positive about his chances of winning another Group 1 on Sunday. photo by HKJC.

 

“Let’s hope it is a red hot leader track on Sunday,” Teetan joked on a chilly morning at trackwork.

Of course it is highly unlikely there will be any tricks to a well-grassed surface on the biggest day of the year and Teetan knows his chances will depend mostly on tactical duels, with Thursday’s barrier draw of critical importance.

Teetan seemed most bullish about the chances of Ka Ying Star, on whom he entered into an early speed battle with Zac Purton and Beauty Generation last start and finished ahead of the reigning Mile champ.

“And I might have won the race as well if Beauty Generation hadn’t taken us off the track,” Teetan said. “I think Ka Ying Star comes into the race very underrated. He has run three terrific races this time in and I think he should be hard to beat. I can see him running a big race.”

Teetan wasn’t giving anything away tactically – and obviously the draw will be instructive – but suggested his horse might have the necessary leg speed to cross or hold Beauty Generation this time, even if Purton is as determined to lead as he was in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile.

“Horses tend to lose a bit of their zip and their gate speed as they get older,” Teetan said.

Teetan gets back aboard Hot King Prawn for the first time since winning last year’s Group 3 National Day Cup on the grey and liked what he saw from the sprinter’s seasonal return when second in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint.

“I was on the winner obviously and Hot King Prawn was the best run of this behind Aethero,” he said. “Hot King Prawn was first-up for nearly a year so he should be better this time.”

Then there is 2017 Cup winner Time Warp, for whom a sole lead is vital, something the now six-year-old is never likely to get with younger full brother Glorious Forever in the same race.

Time Warp hasn’t won for more than a year – a ten race sequence – and was beaten more than 14-lengths last start with little bro again playing pest, but Teetan believes the chestnut might just have one big punch left, especially in a race thrown wide open by the withdrawal of Almond Eye.

“He is an old soldier and you just never know, if he turns up ready and with the right mindset, he could be very hard to run down,” he said.

 

Pick and choose or pick and stick?

Almond Eye’s presence in the initial Cup entries scared some into taking on the Vase instead – most notably fellow Japanese raider Deirdre – and the superstar’s withdrawal from the race on Saturday raised a couple of questions about when the four feature race fields should be finalised?

 

Deirdre had an outing on the dirt at Sha Tin during the week in preparation for her tilt at the Hong Kong Vase (2400m) on Sunday. Photo by HKIR.

 

As it stands fields are announced 18-days out from International Day, on the Wednesday after the Group 2 lead-up races.

Would it make any difference if fields were announced later? And should horses be able to switch races after that if circumstances change and allow?

Even if the “unveiling” of fields at Happy Valley is a bit naff and is just one of those things the Jockey Club does because that’s the way it has always been done, moving the final fields announcement back one week would not really leave enough time before horses have to be en route to Hong Kong.

Allowing horses to switch, as the connections of Deirdre might have been inclined to do now that they find themselves in a harder race worth considerably less, would punish those who were willing to take on Almond Eye. The Jockey Club is right in making connections “pick and stick” to their races.

 

Aiming High pays off

Fortune does favour the brave and for Caspar Fownes the decision to tackle Almond Eye with Rise High is now looks like a masterstroke.

There is a school of thought that forsaking a horse’s best option to avoid one horse is folly and so it has proven this time, with Rise High now likely to start close to favourite in Almond Eye’s absence.

Rise High was second in the Group 1 Champions & Chater Cup late last season over the Vase distance of 2400m, but Fownes elected to take on Japan’s best horse over 2000m.

 

Big Macs for Moreira?

With Zac Purton wasting hard this week to get down to 117-pounds to ride Aethero in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint, it will be interesting to see if his arch-rival Joao Moreira takes rides down in the weights on the International Day undercard.

Moreira rides 115-pounds usually, claiming two-pounds over the bottom weight in handicaps, but on big days – in which older male horses carry 126 pounds in the big races – he has been known to allow himself the luxury of taking rides of 118 or above.

Three or four pounds might not seem much but it means eating a meal he might not have had otherwise on race eve or morning, and staying fully hydrated when others are parched.

The difference may only be psychological but if it means making better decisions – like when Moreira made his decisive mid-race aboard Neorealism in the 2017 QEII Cup, a day he rode 118-pounds in the following race, a few pounds could be worth it.

Jockeys (From left to right) Vincent Ho, Zac Purton and Joao Moreira relax at the IJC rider allocation at Sha Tin on Monday. Photo by HKJC.

 

Meanwhile Purton will be reaching into reserves he hasn’t tapped into for years if he takes the full weight advantage on Aethero; the last time he rode 117 was in February 2012.

 

Honorary Aussie settles in at Sha Tin

Prince Of Arran has become a fan favourite in Australia and a robust piece of work on Monday showed the battle-hardened stayer has come through his recent Cups campaign in fine form.

Placed in the last two Melbourne Cups and a two-time winner in Australia, the six-year-old laid down a marker for his Hong Kong Vase rivals when he stretched out on the turf.

Prince Of Arran was the only horse to work on the course proper on Monday and moved well through a final-400m sectional of 23.0 seconds after working three-quarter pace to the top of the straight.

 

Big odds for the actual Aussie

Prince Of Arran may be an honorary Aussie to many punters but the only actual Australian representative touched down at Hong Kong International Airport in the early hours of Monday morning.

Kris Lees-trained mare In Her Time contests Sunday’s G1 Hong Kong Sprint and regardless of where she draws for the race, supporters are sure to get massive odds about the Group 1 winner.

In Her Time arrived in Hong Kong during the week and is the sole Australian-trained runner for the International Races on Sunday. Photo by HKJC.

 

With so many recognised local stars in the Sprint, In Her Time is likely to be squeezed out of the market and could start the longest price of her career on Sunday.

 

______________________________________

 

Make sure you buy Hutchi’s analysis to get his assessment of Hong Kong International Race week, starting with the International Jockeys’ Championship Night on Wednesday at Happy Valley! Get analysis of all races on the card, including his successful Best Selections and Strategies.

Also NEW for subscribers is the addition of “HH Live”, updates on raceday, including reads on any track patterns, prices moves, best lays and track whispers!

 


The Japan Cup without any foreign challengers

Almond Eye is being aimed at the Hong Kong Cup rather than the Japan Cup this year. Photo by the JRA.

The Japan Cup without any foreign challengers

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

23/11/19

 

This would have been the year for a foreign raider – pity none came – as Japan’s overseas obsession leaves them vulnerable at home .

The real pity that there are no international horses in the 2019 Japan Cup is that it would have been the best chance in years a foreign raider had of winning the race, a chance that may not come along again anytime soon given the trajectory of Japanese horses.

Sunday’s feature is the first time in the 38 year history of the race that a foreign horse has not started but a wide-open field that lacks some of Japan’s best stayers, and even the possibility of rain-affected ground at Tokyo – a rare luxury for European visitors – would have meant a golden opportunity for those willing to take the trip to Tokyo.

The Japan Cup has fulfilled its purpose. It was a race started as an invitational aimed at raising the level of competition in Japan – a way to test its best against the world – and was dominated by visitors in its early years. Now, it seems to have become a race considered too hard to win.

The stature of the Japanese horse globally is a remarkable turnaround and testament to an incredible system. After visitors dominated the Japan Cup through the 1980s and much of the 1990s (foreign-trained horses won nine of the first 11), overseas connections now haven’t won for 14 years and have won only two of the last twenty Japan Cups.

Since Alkaased’s win in 2005, a total of 50 overseas horses have tried and failed – the list of beaten horses includes greats Ouija Board and Danedream – and in that time, only Ouija Board has placed.

Alkaased in 2005 was the last Overseas-trained horse to win the Japan Cup. Photo by HKJC.

 

As the race has become harder to win, the quantity – and quality – of those visiting Tokyo has also diminished.

It is no coincidence that those results over the last 15 years – and the growing reluctance to travel half way around the world for a Japan Cup thrashing – has witnessed the rise of Japan’s horses on the world stage, which culminated with an incredible 2019 abroad.

From Almond Eye’s dominance in Dubai, Win Bright in the QEII Cup at Sha Tin, Deidre’s stellar British campaign capped with a G1 at Goodwood. then Mer De Glace’s Caulfield Cup and Lys Gracieux’s Cox Plate triumph in Australia, this was arguably Japan’s greatest ever year.

The Arc once again eluded Japan but three horses tried – Blast Onepiece, Kiseki and Fierement.

Japan racing’s year was wildly successful and to the betterment of the sport overall, but perhaps that growing overseas obsession has resulted in a weaker-than-usual Japan Cup at home.

Last year’s winner Almond Eye will head to Hong Kong rather than defend her crown, Lys Gracieux won’t be back from Australia in time to contest the race and will wait for December’s Arima Kinen. That pair, along with the beaten Arc trio, would have likely filled the first five places in betting for 2019 Japan Cup.

Then there is Deidre, who will contest the Hong Kong Vase.

Testament to the depth of Japanese racing, the top seven in fan voting for the Arima Kinen will not line up in the Japan Cup.

Japanese racing has come a long way over the past four decades; from getting thrashed in the Japan Cup to dominating abroad.

That thirst for overseas success would have left them vulnerable in this year’s race – had anybody been up for the challenge – and had any Euros accepted then the current wet weather in Tokyo would have likely enhanced their chances too.

Rain continued to fall late on Friday, and with the usual flint-hard surface at Fuchu offered as an excuse for many a well-beaten runner over the last decade, any give would have been a positive.

 

Cheval Grand won the Japan Cup in 2017 (Hugh Bowman) and returns for third attempt this year. Photo by the JRA.

 

Of course to call this year’s Japan Cup weaker-than-usual doesn’t mean it is a weak race overall, with high-calibre horses Rey De Oro, Cheval Grand and Wagnerian engaged – but it might be a long time before a foreign-trained horse strikes a better chance than 2019 would have been.

And given the trajectory of Japanese horses, the visitors may never get a better chance again.

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Michael Cox is a regular columnist for Hutchi’s Honkers and you can read more of his writing on his website: Asian Racing Hub


Michael Cox's HK Six-Up: Who's afraid of Almond Eye?

Who will take on Almond Eye in the Hong Kong Cup? Photo by the JRA.

Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Who’s afraid of Almond Eye?

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

12/11/19

 

The Almond Eye factor already kicking in as potential rivals run and hide.

Who’s afraid of Almond Eye? Well, it turns out connections of other Japanese horses are, with reports that Deidre will dodge the six-time Group 1 winner.

Last week we hinted at the Almond Eye-effect on the Hong Kong Cup and that potential rivals could opt for the longer Hong Kong Vase – or to not come to Hong Kong at all – in order to avoid the champ.

As we suggested, Deidre will be sent to the 2400m of the Vase – a race worth considerably less than the HK$27million Cup at HK$20million – for a better chance of victory.

Deidre, a winner of the G1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and most recently a brave third on unsuitably soft ground in the Champion Stakes at the end of a four-run European campaign, was second in last year’s Hong Kong Cup and ran on for sixth in the G1 QEII Cup in April.

On the flat Sha Tin layout, and in a race that is rarely run at breakneck pace,  2400m shouldn’t be a problem for Deidre, who was fourth to Soul Stirring over the trip in the 2017 Yushun Himba (Oaks) on the far more testing Tokyo lay-out.

 

Vase not an option for Lor

One trainer not dodging Almond Eye is trainer Frankie Lor with defending Hong Kong Cup champion Glorious Forever, but it’s not because he is particularly bullish about beating her, just that he doesn’t have much choice.

“The 2400m isn’t an option for him,” Lor said, who stretched Glorious Forever to the trip late last season when fifth in the Group 1 Champions & Chater Cup.

“James McDonald rode him and came back and said 2400m is just a bit too much for him, we will stick to 2000m, even if Almond Eye is there.”

Glorious Forever hasn’t won since International Day last year and faded to ninth in the Group 2 Sha Tin Trophy first-up after sitting outside the leader.

“He has to lead and control races, that is the key for him, the only way he can win,” Lor said.

 

High-rated 2020 Derby horse unveiled at Valley trials on Saturday

Most of the 2020 Hong Kong Derby contenders have been to the races but one highly rated horse that hasn’t even been to the trials since arriving is Lor’s G1-placed import Decrypt.

Decrpyt, purchased by Albert Huang (Rapper Dragon, Ruthven) after a third in the 2019 G1 Irish 2000 Guineas, arrives with a rating of 93 and Lor said he will send the three-year-old to Happy Valley for his first barrier trial on Saturday.

“The ground is a little more forgiving at Happy Valley, they have been running very fast times here,” Lor said, pointing to the Sha Tin course proper.

Indeed, as has been well-documented here in this column, Sha Tin has been running lightning quick but trackman Stephen Higgins is adamant that fast doesn’t equal hard.

“All the indications; clegg hammer, penetrometer, going stick, moisture content and walking the track tell us that it has more give than in previous years,” he said on Tuesday.

 

Champion’s Way’s flop

Champion’s Way probably sat atop most 2020 Hong Kong Derby rankings before a worrying betting drift and unplaced run first-up on Sunday brought some doubts about the 108-rated four-year-old.

So should we be re-assessing where Champion’s Way sits in the pecking order, or be more forgiving of a first-up run in a race where jockey Joao Moreira ended up further back than he expected, the 1,200m to 800m sectional was run at breakneck speed (20.95 seconds) and resulted in a track record time?

Champion’s Way disappointed many with his seasonal return. Photo by HKJC.

Moreira’s explanation to stewards post-race – that the horse “travelled only fairly”, even with the aforementioned factors of race position and tempo – wasn’t exactly encouraging, but analyst Clint Hutchison said there were plenty of forgiving factors.

“It was probably what you would call a pass, at best, maybe a little disappointing,” he said of the run.

“But we knew going in he had top weight and was first-up, and then when they are running a track record like they did, breaking one minute 21 seconds for 1400m, and you are giving the leaders eight or nine lengths on the turn, you are never going to be a winning chance. I would have like to see him attack the line a touch better. Perhaps he needed the run though and I wouldn’t be writing him off, he is going to be a lot better for the race. He might also be better in a race where he can get in a Class 1 with a lighter weight, and stripping fitter for that run, it should allow him to settle a little bit closer. He got better through his preparation last time and I expect him to again so I wouldn’t be jumping off him.”

In previous years that Class 1 would have been on International Day over 1400m, but sadly what used to be a high quality contest of future stars and useful veterans was dropped from the day in 2017.

 

Teetan’s all-you-can-eat diet

You’ve read the clichéd racing story, the one that is written every time a big handicap race rolls around; it’s the piece about the jockey on a black coffee and cigarette diet, spending eight hours per day in a sweat room as he desperately wastes to make a light weight.

 

Karis Teetan is the envy of many jockeys given his natural light weight. Photo by HKJC.

 

Karis Teetan, who rides Aethero at 113-pounds in Sunday’s G2 Jockey Club Sprint, is not the jockey in that story.

“Yesterday I had a lovely afternoon tea, then a big bowl of pasta and a big piece of banana cake for breakfast before I came here this morning “, said the wire-thin Mauritian. “Tomorrow I will have another big breakfast, but that is every day, 113-pounds for me is not a problem.”

Teetan recently returned home to Mauritius while suspended for the Diwali festival and said that after ‘eating whatever I wanted” that he was still 108-pounds.

 

Regency returns

Teetan rides Aethero in the G2 but leading jockey Zac Purton – who has a well-publicised battle with weight, especially during winter – has first option in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint, where the three-year-old will carry 117-pounds.

 

Purton will assess his options after this Sunday’s race, in which he rides Danny Shum’s rising talent Regency Legend.

“We’ll cross the bridge when we come to it,” Purton said of the possibility of getting down to 117 for Aethero, which we will probably write a clichéd jockey weight loss story about given Purton hasn’t ridden 117 or less since February 2012.

Of course the rules allow Purton to claim two pounds over, if trainer John Moore is open to not using the full weight advantage.

But then these prognostications will prove pointless if Regency Legend is as dominant as he has been in his four Hong Kong starts this Sunday.

“He has done everything right so far,” Purton said.

Perhaps the biggest doubt hanging over Regency Legend is the fact he has produced multiple post-race scopes showing blood in his trachea.

The internal issues are why trainer Danny Shum has nursed the four-year-old through this prep, skipping the G2 Premier Bowl and heading straight to the international day trial.

Purton said the feedback from the stable was that Regency Legend’s issues appear to be improving.

“Danny says he his scopes have never looked better after his gallops and trials, so let’s hope he has improved in that way because he is a tremendous talent,” Purton said.

___________________________________________

 

Make sure you buy Hutchi’s analysis to get his assessment of Hong Kong meeting number 19 this Wednesday at Happy Valley! Get analysis of all races on the card, including his successful Best Selections and Strategies.

Also NEW for subscribers is the addition of “HH Live”, updates on raceday, including reads on any track patterns, prices moves, best lays and track whispers!


Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Caspar To Pick His Poison

Southern Legend was brilliant winning the Ladies’ Purse, but his ultimate assignment – either way – will have him up against the very best. Photo by the HKJC.

Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Caspar To Pick His Poison

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

08/11/19

 

Pick your poison: get beat up by Beauty Generation in the Hong Kong Mile, or risk being annihilated by Almond Eye in the Hong Kong Cup. They are the unenviable options for trainers like Caspar Fownes as they weigh up Hong Kong International Day decisions.

Southern Legend’s win over 1800m last weekend in the Group 3 Ladies’ Purse opened up options for Fownes and he has entered his honest money-spinner in the G2 Jockey Club Cup over 2000m on November 17.

It is a race in which he also has Beauty Generation’s last-start conqueror Rise High entered, and for both horses the Jockey Club Cup will dictate which of the International Day features the duo contest.

Southern Legend is accomplished at a mile, and until Tuesday’s announcement that Almond Eye would contest the Hong Kong Cup, avoiding Beauty Generation and stepping up to 2000m – a considerably richer race at that – seemed like a good idea.

For Rise High, the win in the Group 2 Sha Tin Trophy over Beauty Generation vindicated Fownes’ opinion that he has a top class middle distance horse on his hands, but the presence of Almond Eye could tempt him to avoid her and stretch to 2400m of the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase.

 

Trainer Caspar Fownes has some serious horse-placement decisions to make leading into HKIR week in December. Photo by HKJC.

“We do have to take into account the fact she is coming, she is a superstar,” Fownes said, referring to the six-time Group 1 winner Almond Eye.

“I’ll let this race decide with both Southern Legend and Rise High, it will be a good gauge. Exultant ran enormous time out and will be fitter for that run, so he will be our benchmark.”

 

Almond Eye equals diminished Cup

Fownes’ distance dilemma demonstrates the downside of attracting a marquee name like Almond Eye to the December showpiece, it is one thing for local horses like Southern Legend and Rise High to be changing tack, but it could cause connections of potential overseas rivals to reconsider travel plans altogether.

 

Could the presence of Almond Eye reduce international competitors wanting to take on the Hong Kong Cup? Photo by JRA.

 

There is already word that connections of one potential Hong Kong Cup candidate have cold feet now faced with the prospect of travelling halfway around the world to cop a caning from one of the world’s best racemares.

Like Fownes with Rise High, those with more versatile horses may lean towards the Hong Kong Vase, worth less at 20 million HKD, but a far more winnable contest.

Almond Eye’s presence lifts the profile of International Day and is overwhelmingly positive, but it is almost certain to result in a less-than-capacity – and weaker – Cup field.

 

Lui’s plans for four-year-olds

Francis Lui is in the rare situation of having two strong chances for the 2020 four-year-old series, which starts with January’s Hong Kong Classic Mile and culminates with the Hong Kong Derby.

The 94-rated Golden Sixty – a winner of both starts this season and five from six overall – will carry close to top weight in a mixed ratings band Class Two (95-75) over 1400m on November 23.

The 90-rated More Than This, also a winner of two-from-two this term, will contest the always-competitive 1600m Class Two on International Day in December.

 

It’s Classique, not classic

One southern hemisphere four-year-old not on the four-year-old series path is Hong Kong-bound Classique Legend, although the smart sprinter is still destined to end up with Caspar Fownes.

Owned by Southern Legend’s owner Boniface Ho, Classique Legend was a desperately unlucky sixth, beaten less than three lengths, in the Everest and was a flat 12thin last weekend’s Golden Eagle over 1500m.

Had Classique Legend ran well at 1500m Fownes was still holding out hope the horse could contest the Hong Kong Classic Mile in late January, and although that idea has been scrapped, the trainer still believes the import will be a versatile campaigner.

“Classique Legend will go for a spell now and come in January,” Fownes said.

“I haven’t given up on him getting over 1400m or further one day, I think the run the other day just showed that he was in need of a break, or just felt the ground a bit, more than it indicated he couldn’t get the trip. His trainer Les Bridge is an exceptional trainer and he felt 1500m would not be a problem at all, so I wouldn’t rule it out. At the very least we know from his run in the Everest that we have a world class sprinter on its way to us, so we will just start him off in the sprint races and see where he takes us.”

 

On Way to Derby

Champion’s Way starts on his own path to the four-year-old series in Saturday’s Panasonic Cup over 1400m, the same race Size kicked off his 2013 Derby winner Luger’s campaign six years ago.

Of course Luger’s Hong Kong Derby campaign was far from smooth-sailing with Size pulling off one of the great training feats to win the big one.

Luger was diagnosed with an irregular heart rhythm when unplaced as 1.8 favourite first-up, missed his following start and Size was forced to head into the big race second-up, a month after a 1600m Class Two win.

 

Weather forecast stormy

Saturday’s undercard contains another 2020 four-year-old series hopeful with a less-than-illustrious claim-to-fame.

The Douglas Whyte-trained The Weatherman is a half-brother to former cult horse Storm Kid, a horse best known for flashy looks, a graceful but slow motion galloping action and a complete lack of ability.

The Weatherman, rated 78 after three wins in Europe, is already more accomplished than his half-sibling, who finished his career with a zero from 14 record and is now a riding horse at the Jockey Club’s Beas River facility.

Although all of The Weatherman’s form for former trainer Archie Watson was at sprint trips and the son of Showcasing is debuting over 1000m, his pedigree suggests that trips 1600m or even further could be where he shows his best.

 

_____________________________________________

 

Make sure you buy Hutchi’s analysis to get his assessment of Hong Kong meeting number 18 this Saturday at Sha Tin! Get analysis of all races on the card, including his successful Best Selections and Strategies.

Also NEW for subscribers is the addition of “HH Live”, updates on raceday, including reads on any track patterns, prices moves, best lays and track whispers!


Breaking News: Almond Eye's next start to be in Hong Kong

After winning the Tenno Sho, Almond Eye will now target the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup on 8 December at Sha Tin. Photo by JRA.

Breaking News: Almond Eye’s next start to be in Hong Kong

Michael Cox

Michael Cox

For hutchishonkers.com

06.11.19

 

Hong Kong Jockey Club officials have landed a major coup with Asian Racing Hub reporting that champion Japanese mare Almond Eye will contest the HK$28million Hong Kong Cup on December 8. 

Almond Eye returned from a five-month break in devastating form last month when she thrashed ten other Group 1 winners in the G1 Tenno Sho. 

It was the four-year-old’s sixth win at the top level in a career that has garnered eight wins from ten starts. 

Silk Racing has been in regular contact with Hong Kong Jockey Club officials about the trip, which means passing on a shot at a second straight Japan Cup. 

Read the full story here from Hutchi’s Honkers columnist Michael Cox on Asian Racing Hub: 

https://asian-racinghub.com/2019/11/06/breaking-almond-eye-confirmed-for-hong-kong-as-jockey-club-officials-assure-connections-of-safety-in-the-city/