It’s Champions Day in Hong Kong this Sunday 26th April 2020 and Neil Morrice brings you his Best Bets for the three Grade 1 contests on a glittering Sha Tin card, including video analysis.
Race 1: No6 – TELECOM ROCKET
Trainer: Me Tsui – Jockey: Michael Yeung
The draw could play a big part in the outcome of the opener, and while TELECOM ROCKET enjoys the luxury of being one off the rail, three of his market rivals occupy the outside gates which may cause them problems. Since his win here before Christmas the selection has posted two near misses as well as finishing fourth when only a length and a quarter off the winner, Team Power, last week. He seems just as effective over this seven furlongs as at a mile, and can capitalise if CITY LEGEND, CHAIRMAN LO and CHARGE ON are unable to circumnavigate their tricky gates.
Race 2: No6 – WAR OF COURAGE
Trainer: Manfred Man – Jockey: Chad Schofield
With few miles on his racing clock there’s improvement to come from the four-year-old WAR OF COURAGE, who seeks a third success from just four starts this year. From gate 11 he will need to have his trapping boots on, but should he break smartly it will take a good one to halt his progress. WAR ROOM returns from 122 days off and is the joker in the pack, granted he’s probably capable of a lot more than he’s shown and now debuts for both David Hall and Zac Purton. CALIFORNIA TURBO has better form at Happy Valley, but after running into the money here last time could be effective under new rider Moreira.
Race 3: No6 – RHAPSODY
Trainer: John Size – Jockey: Joao Moreira
It takes a good horse to deliver on debut against more experienced rivals but RHAPSODY has given out all the right signals in his trials, and can buck that trend for top connections. The son of Hinchinbrook is drawn alongside GOOD LUCK FRIEND which could well prove an advantage. The latter sets the standard for the others to aim at after an impressive course and distance win on second start under Purton, who retains the mount. One for place possibilities rather than win is the 17-start maiden CASA DE FORCA, who from a cracking inside draw can figure.
Race 4: No13 – CHEERFUL LEADER
Trainer: Ricky Yiu – Jockey: Joao Moreira
Returning from a short break, course and distance winner CHEERFUL LEADER has the look of one of the best bets on the card. Since Moreira jumped on him he’s gone 3-1-3, while the addition of blinkers on his run before that can only be seen as having benefitted the Helmet gelding. It will be a minor shock if the race doesn’t fall to either the ‘Magic Man’ or Zac Purton, as the latter has scored on both occasions he’s ridden JOYFUL HEART this year and this ultra consistent performer can hardly not benefit from the Australian’s return to his saddle. At a bigger price GIFT OF LIFELINE can pose a threat, but he mustn’t get too far adrift of the field, as was the case on his latest start two weeks ago.
Race 5 – 08:50 – HK$18 million CHAIRMAN’S SPRINT PRIZE (Group 1) – 1200m
Dominating discussion amongst racing professionals at Sha Tin through the week has been whether intended new tactics on AETHERO can propel that super-talented galloper to victory as the first three-year-old since Fairy King Prawn in 1999.
John Moore had a smile as wide as a barn door after watching Zac Purton’s mount bag gate 5 at the midweek pin pull. Any illusions the trainer had other than asking Purton to go forward on the gelding were instantly quashed and Aethero’s followers will fully expect him to ping and hit the front. This would be in stark contrast to the sluggish starts he’s produced this season, especially in the Group 2 Sprint Cup earlier in the month which caused him to do too much behind rivals, try to climb over them and have nothing left for the business end of the contest. Aethero heads into Sunday having passed his test in a barrier trail, where although not managing to lead straight away, powered away from his workmates in the final 400 metres.
Victorious in that Sprint Cup was new kid on the block VOYAGE WARRIOR who had delighted his connections in his preparatory work at the Chonghua training complex. It was a stunning display to beat HOT KING PRAWN who was making a top three finish for the sixteenth time in 17 career starts. Hot King Prawn can be completely relied upon to put in another earning run under Joao Moreira and exploit any weakness in Aethero, not to mention In Voyage Warrior who wasn’t afforded the appropriate respect by his rivals, who were made to pay. After three Group 1 place finishes since undergoing surgery for colic, Hot King Prawn is ready to realise the potential he showed as a young sprinter. Furthermore, a win for the grey would complete a hat-trick for his trainer John Size who bagged the 2018 and 2019 runnings with IVictory and Beat The Clock. Both Size and Moreira have rightly made the point that should rain arrive over the weekend it should not in any way inconvenience their five-year-old, and 19 horses of that age group have prevailed in the historic contest.
At longer odds, Aethero’s stablemate THANKS FOREVER, could put in an earning run, whilst MR STUNNING needs to turn back the clock but could be capable of getting involved. An upset is not out of the question but seeing Hot King Prawn have an off day certainly is!
1. 1st HOT KING PRAWN
2. 2nd Mr Stunning
3. 3rd Aethero
4. 4th Voyage Warrior
5. 5th Thanks Forever
Race 6: No1 – WELLINGTON
Trainer: Richard Gibson – Jockey: Zac Purton
An exciting horse reaching for the stars is WELLINGTON, who can extend his unbeaten sequence to four, from a gate that his trainer would have picked if he could have. The Australian-bred gelding has done everything very easily so far and his recent defeat of Larson was semi endorsed when that horse finished second at Happy Valley on Wednesday. If Wellington is what connections think he is, nothing but a win will do. Seeking a fourth win on the bounce is FANTASTIC SHOW but this step up the class ladder could prove a bridge too far, while BEAUTY SMILE chased that rival home on debut and can possibly improve past him.
Race 7 – 10:00 – HK$20 million FWD CHAMPIONS MILE (Group 1) – 1600m
Two burning questions need to be answered here. The first is whether BEAUTY GENERATION can set the seal on another Horse Of The Year accolade. The second, if as expected he’s triumphant, will his Australia-bound trainer John Moore be tempted to send him into a well-earned retirement? Whatever pans out from that, Zac Purton teams up with the gelding for the 25th time and the combination look set to go off a shade of odds-on.
If the form book is indeed the ‘bible’ for race fans to follow, then there’s a decent case for WAIKUKU foiling Beauty Generation on Sunday. A third triumph for the last-named horse would be unprecedented in Hong Kong racing history, but Waikuku has finished ahead of the Horse Of The Year on four occasions this season, notably in the Group 1 Stewards Cup and the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile, and again when finishing one place ahead of the champ, in second, in the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile. However, BEAUTY GENERATION appears to have the Indian sign on his arch rival if recent evidence is to go by. He demolished the John Size-trained gelding in the Group 3 Celebration Cup when conceding a stone, and again in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy when Waikuku faded to finish out of the money in sixth. His trainer John Moore is seeking an amazing ninth success in the contest with his “iron horse”, who can run fractions no other milers have been capable of, whether from the front or just off the pace.
Eleven-times champion trainer Size has tepidly admitted that Beauty Generation is a better class of horse and that two hard races at Group 1 level might have sapped the energy of Waikuku. Further to this, following a wet week in Hong Kong, Size is worried about the possibility of cut in the ground for his gelding, which would be a further disadvantage.
Included in the 8-strong field is the Tony Cruz-trained KA YING STAR whose performances give him the aura of a ‘Mr Consistency’. Antoine Hamelin’s mount has been thereabouts in all the top mile races this season and twice chased the shadow of Beauty Generation, in the Queens Silver Jubilee Cup and the Chairman’s Trophy. Frustratingly for Cruz, his charge is never much more than half a length off the champ and should further rain hit the track it won’t inconvenience the gelding whose pilot has made a bright start to his contract as a Club jockey.
SOUTHERN LEGEND and MORE THAN THIS will vie for a minor place finish and the former, winner of the Singapore Cup two years ago, looked to be getting somewhere near his best when third to Beauty Generation two weeks ago. More Than This has been wonderfully consistent for his connections with three wins, a second and two thirds from as many starts this season and is certainly not out of it.
1. BEAUTY GENERATION
2. Ka Ying Star
3. More Than This
5. Southern Legend
Race 8 – 10:40 – HK$25 million FWD QUEEN ELIZABETH II CUP (Group 1) – 2000m
Tony Cruz looks to have this in the palm of his hand with an enviable three-pronged assault on the prize with triple Group 1 winners EXULTANT and TIME WARP joined by the trainer’s recent acquisition FURORE.
It’s a repeat match-up of the exciting battle staged between the first-named pair in the Hong Kong Gold Cup, when Joao Moreira slipped the field on the front-running Time Warp as Exultant found trouble from his awkward gate and arrived too late. Identical tactics are expected from Time Warp, with Zac Purton hoping his mount will not be as lazy out of the gates. Happily, for his connections, Exultant was sharper in a subsequent trial and his Australian pilot will look to slot him in fourth or fifth place in the small field. Exultant, runner-up to Win Bright in the corresponding race 12 months ago when he encountered a wide trip, stamped himself the champion middle distance horse and stayer in Hong Kong. If Purton’s words are to be taken seriously, a poor break by his mount that leaves him in last place could spell disaster. That’s a scenario Moreira doesn’t have to worry about on Time Warp, a horse in the twilight of his career who is there to be shot at.
FURORE hasn’t won since his delivery in last year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby but indicated he is on the cusp of nailing a big one when finishing fourth to Beauty Generation in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy over a mile last time. Karis Teetan takes over on Furore from Blake Shinn who has elected to stick with Playa Del Puente.
If there’s a joker in the ‘QEII’ pack then it could indeed emerge from PLAYA DEL PUENTE. Under an enterprising ride from Shinn he almost pulled off the biggest shock in BMW Hong Kong Derby history when going clear and only being reeled in two strides from glory by Golden Sixty. Trainer Danny Shum will look to his charge’s assured stamina off a fast pace to bring him into the equation against more seasoned and proven foes. However, the gelding needs to erase what was a disappointing barrier trial last week in which he was no match for rising star Wellington.
It’s been a while since the John Moore-trained EAGLE WAY (Neil Callan) showed his old sparkle, and without a top four finish in his last ten starts the seven-year-old will surely struggle.
The field is completed by Tony Millward’s pair GLORIOUS DRAGON (Chad Schofield) and ELUSIVE STATE (Victor Borges), who while too smart to be completely discounted would provide a major upset if toppling the Cruz contenders.
1. 1st EXULTANT
2. 2nd Time Warp
3. 3rd Furore
4. 4th Playa Del Puente
5. 5th Glorious Dragon
Race 9: No4 – COMPUTER PATCH
Trainer: John Moore – Jockey: Joao Moreira
This is full of horses with potential to go a long way and from the rail, COMPUTER PATCH can avenge his somewhat unlucky defeat last time. In that Class 2 he rattled home from an impossible position and with Joao Moreira taking over on top he can reverse placings with SHINING ACE. TRANSCENDENT was a five-times winner in France before shipping here and off two cracking runs last month rates a dangerous foe. His winning form over Fantasy couldn’t have worked out better, while on the basis of his latest outing he is much the same horse as the selection. At bigger odds WATER DIVINER is included. He tends to get detached but could rattle home and cause a minor shock.
Race 10: No12 – GENERAL’S DELIGHT
Trainer: Doug Whyte – Jockey: Alfred Chan
This is a competitive mile to end a day of top class action and GENERAL’S DELIGHT is the one to be on in the belief he can put it all together. He’s run better than his form figures indicate in two recent starts and having gained the track craft to handle a big field like this will be more streetwise, while apprentice Alfie Chan’s 7lb claim is an added boost. BUTTERFIELD steps back in trip after two solid efforts over 2000m. This recent arrival to Hong Kong should now be primed for an imminent return to winning ways, but does not exude the value of the main pick. Prolific winner PRECIOUSSHIP wasn’t beaten far in his hat-trick bid and could also prove dangerous off a short break.