Winner’s Way will attempt to become the latest from last season’s smart four-year-old crop to take a stride toward the elite grades when he lines up in Sunday’s (10 September) Sha Tin feature, the Class 1 Kwangtung Handicap Cup (1400m).
Hong Kong Classic Mile runner-up Seasons Bloom kicked off the current campaign with an impressive show in last week’s HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup that prompted talk of Group 1 targets, and now the horse that finished two spots behind him in that four-year-old classic will try to follow suit.
Jockey Zac Purton, circumspect in his appraisal, believes nonetheless that Winner’s Way’s prospects are better than fair. “He’s got the potential to take another step,” the former champion said before barrier trials at Sha Tin this morning (Friday, 8 September). “Whether he gets to that level, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Winner’s Way won four of 10 starts during his debut Hong Kong season, and filled the runner-up berth three times. He rounded out the campaign with a smart second to Thewizardofoz in June’s G3 Premier Cup Handicap at the course and distance: a respectable first foray into Pattern grade.
“He’d always shown that he had some ability and he’d been a bit erratic in his races and done some things wrong, but towards the end of last season he decided to start putting it together and when he does put it together he’s a decent horse,” Purton said.
The rider was in the plate for Winner’s Way’s latest barrier trial on 29 August. The Tony Cruz-trained gelding passed the post half a length clear in that 1200m dirt track tune-up, clocking a time of 1m 11.09s without being pressured.
“I thought his barrier trial was pretty good,” Purton revealed. “It was the first piece of serious work he’d done this season and he was always going to improve off it. He went out there and did his thing, and he seemed to be moving quite well.”
Winner’s Way will carry 128lb in the select eight-runner feature, the same as his stablemate and reliable Group-race yardstick, Romantic Touch. The Tony Millard-trained Horse Of Fortune, a two-time G3 winner at 1800m and capable at 1400m, will carry top-weight of 133lb, while another G3 scorer from last season, Supreme Profit, will have 113lb on his back.
“Whenever you get up in this grade they’re always competitive races and this one is no different. There are a few horses there with a bit of a chance and it’s just going to depend on how the race is run. I’m sure it’ll be a good finish,” Purton added.
Also in the field are two horses that posted sound runs in defeat last Sunday. The David Hall-trained Solar Hei Hei (113lb) was second to Mongolian King in a course and distance Class 2 and is once again set to have apprentice Matthew Poon knock off an extra 7lb; the John Moore-trained Magic Legend, meanwhile, was a running-on fourth in the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup and backs up over an extra furlong.
“It wasn’t the plan to back-up but Tommy got off and said he was just looking for 1400,” Moore said of Magic Legend. “He’s eaten up and is in good heart so everything looks well. He hit a flat spot last weekend but then kicked on – Tommy said he’d lost his early speed.”
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club