On Tuesday more than 100,000 racing fans hit Sha Tin to see in the Year Of The Snake, betting around $A 190 million on the eleven race card, but this weekend thoughts return to Group One racing.
In particular, the next chapter of the Hong Kong Derby story as most of the contenders step up to 1,800m in the Classic Cup.
Trainer Richard Gibson holds the whip hand with Classic Mile winner Gold-Fun and former Irish horse, Akeed Mofeed, both in the forefront of discussions. But the trainer has warned that Akeed Mofeed, a big stallion who has had only three races in the past year, still needs racing to get him to his top.
The Classic Cup has been an upset race almost every year of its short history, and that potential is there again. Autumn Gold and former New Zealander Best Show both held their own with Akeed Mofeed as the three split the line in a recent trial, and eye-catching debuts from John Moore-trained Poetic Justice and Caspar Fownes-trained Blazing Speed put them in the mix. Throw in Classic Mile runner-up Garlic Boy and John Moore’s other Derby hope, Ashkiyr and the race looks deep.
In the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Trophy, Lucky Nine will be out to redeem his reputation, back to 1,200m after a flat-footed run over the straight 1,000m of the Centenary Sprint. He is a likely Dubaivisitor if he recovers his form, but arrayed against him in the nine-horse field are five Moore-trained sprinters, including likely favourite, Frederick Engels, as well as Derek Cruz-trained Joy And Fun and Cerise Cherry.
After failing to acclimatise last year, Frederick Engels has been a revelation this season with 3 wins from 5 starts and the former top UKjuvenile will lay claim to top ranking amongst Hong Kong’s sprinters if he wins this weekend.
Best Eleven, absent early in the season after surgery for a knee chip, is also on the rise after his third in the Centenary Sprint
By Nathan Mody