Romantic Warrior won a sensational Hong Kong Derby in 2022. Who will win in 2023? Photo by HKJC.

Hutchi’s Derby Rankings – Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Series

Clint Hutchison

Hutchi's Honkers Principal Analyst

24 January 2023


The Hong Kong Derby is the most prestigious race on the HK racing calendar and the one race that all owners strive to win each and every year. The Derby is the 3rd Leg of the Four-Year-Old Series and is run over 2000m. The other legs are the Hong Kong Classic Mile run over 1600m (this Sunday 29 January) and the Hong Kong Classic Cup run over 1800m (on Sunday 26 February).

In the lead up to the 2023 Derby on March 19, I have compiled a list of my ‘top-rated’ runners, based off my own HH ratings and referencing the official HKJC Highest Rated Four-Year-Olds.

It should be noted that I have standardized each four-year-old horses’ peak rating to 126lbs for this purpose.

For easier digestion, rather than presenting my raw figures, I will give you a ‘benchmark horse’ who holds the peak performance going by my HH ratings and I’ll work from that, listing subsequent horses in order based off the number of lengths off the benchmark horse’s peak that they’ve performed to. The benchmark horse for me right now is, KEEFY.

Below aren’t necessarily my selections as such, but more so a frame of reference of where each horse rates in terms of their ‘peak performance’ or ‘potential’ to this point in time, as we lead into the 1st Leg of the Four-Year-Old Series, The Hong Kong Classic Mile.

Of course, some horses will have peaks over shorter distances (Cordyceps Six), some may be suited over 1600m or more (Beautyverse) with ratings yet hidden. Each year it’s measuring these things with the prospect of running the Derby trip of 2000m, so there is plenty to play out that I’ll track over the coming weeks!


HORSE (HKJC Handicap Rating) Trainer: Lengths off Benchmark Horse

1️⃣ KEEFY (100) Frankie Lor: Benchmark Horse

On official ratings Keefy has the luxury of being near the top of the bill, notwithstanding his best HH figures have been amassed over 1400m to 1600m. He deserves to be the early Derby favourite and his best form reads and rates very well.

2️⃣ VOYAGE BUBBLE (81) Ricky Yiu: -1.75 lengths

This horse can land on the pace in his races and has posted some very good figures overall. He was brave enough winning off a decent speed recently over 1600m, but the main question for him is staying beyond the mile.

3️⃣ PACKING TREADMILL (93) Francis Lui: -2.8 lengths

He is ‘a winner’, it’s as simple as that. He is versatile in terms of how he can be ridden, he relaxes well and has shown an excellent turn-of-foot when required over 1400 to 1600m. I don’t see the Derby distance being as much of an issue for him as it might be for others.

4️⃣ CORDYCEPS SIX (111) Richard Gibson: -3.2 lengths

His HKJC official handicap rating is much higher than all others, but the obvious query is whether he is suited over the mile, never mind further. I have often seen quality gallopers perform well in the 1st Leg of the Four-Year-Old Series, given their class, but one must have serious concerns around his stamina from a Derby perspective.

5️⃣ GALAXY WITNESS (84) Caspar Fownes: -4 lengths

He’s hitting form at the right time and when ridden stone-cold over 1400m he powered to the line in some excellent closing sectionals at his last start. Against his own age, I don’t think the mile will be a problem, but given his form prior to his last couple of runs, there must be doubts over anything further.

6️⃣ FLAGSHIP WARRIOR (84) David Hayes: -4.5 lengths

He delivered arguably the best debut of any of the ‘PPs’ so far that are being set for the Derby. He put a good figure carrying weight and showed an excellent turn-off-foot. He has more improvement in him than most others, and he should be suited over further. A leading Derby chance right now.

7️⃣ SWEET ENCOUNTER (86) John Size: -4.75 lengths

This is another galloper that can land on the pace in his races, and he has proven remarkably consistent. He relaxes well and is already proven over 1800m, so I don’t see the Derby distance being an issue.

8️⃣ TUCHEL (83) John Size: -5.2 lengths

It was a super win fresh-up when sitting wide without cover and he is another horse that is expected to improve again. He should stay and is a nice Derby prospect for sure.

9️⃣ ENCOUNTERED (81) Manfred Man: -5.2 lengths

This horse has posted back-to-back wins at Happy Valley over the mile and is probably flying under the radar to an extent. He is in form at the right time, can settle on the pace and I don’t think 2000m will pose any issues.

1️⃣0️⃣ HAVA NAGEELA (69) Frankie Lor: -5.2 lengths

This horse has delivered very consistent ratings in three HK runs, even though two came on the AWT. He is another though that I think can run well over the Derby distance. He seemed to be beaten for a turn-of-foot against Voyage Bubble over 1600m recently after making an early move in the race, but there is clearly more to offer from him.

1️⃣1️⃣ SWORD POINT (84) Frankie Lor: -5.3 lengths

The positive for this gelding is that he is proven over the Derby distance range. He was an impressive winner in Australia over 2000m and at his third local start when stepping up in trip he improved considerably.

1️⃣2️⃣ BEAUTY ETERNAL (74) John Size: -5.3 lengths

He should be undefeated and clearly has more HKJC handicap rating points in hand. Beauty Eternal is also a galloper that can elevate quite a bit off his HH performance ratings given how he has performed thus far. He has some ‘x-factor’ about him. It might be a push to get him into the Derby now, but I think he can, and if there, look out!

1️⃣3️⃣ HAPPY TOGETHER (67) Richard Gibson: -5.4 lengths

He’s lightly-raced and in HK his best effort to date was when runner-up to Voyage Bubble. Then he left the impression that stepping up in trip will suit him. He has plenty to find on his official rating, so might be pushing it getting into the Derby.

1️⃣4️⃣ BEAUTYVERSE (88) Tony Cruz: -6.9 lengths

He hasn’t put up good figure yet on my records despite winning on debut. However, he is another horse that will come into his own over 2000m given his Australian record. In addition, he has had a complete ‘forgive run’ (Chevalier Cup where Keefy blitzed him) and is open to improvement. I expect him to be more of a challenger once he gets beyond a mile.

1️⃣5️⃣ BON’S A PEARLA (80) David Hayes: -7.2 lengths

She has been sound enough in a couple of races and hasn’t put up a big number as of yet. She was quite good over the Derby distance range in South Australia and that’s what is going to help her as she has a bit to find on her HK form to date.

Below is the link to the HKJC’s “50 Highest Rated Four-Year-Olds” document that shows which horses are entered for the Hong Kong Derby, and their current official HKJC handicap rating. I will update my own list each week with revised numbers from horses that have run and remain eligible for the BMW Hong Kong Derby for 2023.