by David Morgan
Hong Kong’s Pattern race programme kicked off last Saturday, a signal that the season is now in full swing, and with the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races only two months hence, a bevy of Sha Tin’s classier residents stepped out this morning, Tuesday, 4 October, for some tune-up work.
Lucky Bubbles was the pick of a talented bunch that turned out for the session’s first turf barrier trial. Francis Lui’s compact chestnut pinged from the gate and led the 10 participants throughout the 1000-metre hit-out under the ever-present Brett Prebble, passing the post first in a time of 58.01s.
Last season’s G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) second, the apple of his rider’s eye right now, will head to the G2 Premier Bowl (1200m) first-up on 23 October, with December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) the main target. It was the Sebring gelding’s second trial this term.
“He enjoyed it, he went out there and he’s sprung the gates - he had his ears pricked all the way down the straight and it was just a lovely little blow for him without any pressure. It’s nice to have that feeling,” said Prebble, who partnered another emergent five-year-old, Amazing Kids, to win the G3 National Day Cup (1000m) at the weekend.
“It’s tough to compare the two,” he said. “I’ve always stated one would fit inside the other and it sometimes comes down to the strength of those sprinters, but he’s always shown he’s got good heart, Lucky Bubbles, and his racing pattern is such that he makes his own luck - he can really put himself in a place where he can come off the pace. He’s a very versatile horse and, for me, he’s the one that has put his hand up to say he’s the next best thing. I’m very attached to him and I have no reason to get off him.”
The Richard Gibson-trained Giant Treasure, second to Maurice in last season’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, travelled smoothly behind Lucky Bubbles and closed off strongly to within three quarters of a length second at the post. The grey appeared to be in fine fettle ahead of his first outing of the campaign, the G2 Oriental Watch 55th Anniversary Sha Tin Trophy (1600m), also on 23 October at Sha Tin.
“He’s just done everything we wanted him to do in the trial,” said jockey Neil Callan. “He jumped well; there were quite a lot of good horses in the trial. He travelled nicely and he was well-balanced - when I put him between a couple of horses the last 200 metres he closed off quite strongly and strode out around the bend even after the line, so I’m happy with him going forward.”
Moore’s four firing
Trainer John Moore saddled a high-class quartet in batch one - Rapper Dragon settled sweetly centre track and finished off well enough for jockey Joao Moreira in third; last season’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) runner-up Victory Magic showed decent pace and closed smartly for fourth; Designs On Rome exhibited some spark in sixth for Karis Teetan; and Sam Clipperton allowed Helene Happy Star to settle back and run on under his own steam to a six and three quarter lengths seventh.
The exciting four-year-old Rapper Dragon is expected to be a leading player in the BMW Hong Kong Derby, come March, but before then the Street Boss gelding, known as Street Rapper when raced in Australia, is being set for a tilt at the big boys in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
“Rapper Dragon really went well - we’ll go a mile, a mile again and then the 2000 metres in December,” Moore said.
Moreira, meanwhile, reported: “Rapper Dragon still feels like he is a bit further back in his prep than some of the others but he is on the right track to get there. He’s a very exciting horse.”
Moore was pleased with each of his batch one triallists and is looking forward to setting the ball rolling with his “big guns” on Oriental Watch day in three weeks’ time.
“I thought they all trialled pretty good,” he said. “Karis was full of praise for Designs On Rome; Sam thought it was a good trial for Helene Happy Star; Zac said that Victory Magic showed very good early speed and trialled very well, he was actually impressed by that.
“Overall, the big guns are coming into form nicely - all is going to plan with their grand final two months away on 11 December. These horses will all go into the Sha Tin Trophy at the mile on the 23rd.”
And the trainer was particularly pleased with his 2014 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup victor, Designs On Rome. The six-year-old took time to come to hand last term following arthroscopic surgery to both front fetlocks in May, 2015.
“Designs On Rome’s joints are good and tight, I’m happy with him. He’s had not one setback, it’s all gone to plan with him so far,” Moore said.
Karis Teetan has a race record of one win from five starts on Designs On Rome and will partner the four-time G1 winner first-up in the Sha Tin Trophy.
“He’s the same old horse,” said the Mauritian ace. “That was a nice trial - he came out pretty smartly today, very quickly for him. He got himself up there and then fell back - I allowed him to fall back - and I was pretty impressed when I pressed him, he actually quickened up to finish behind some nice horses. He’s feeling good, he’s moving well, feeling fresh, so that’s a good sign moving forward.”
Blizzard and Pakistan Star
In trial two, also down the 1000m straight, the Ricky Yiu-trained Blizzard cruised home in a time of 58.13s under Moreira, ahead of 10 others, including the current buzz horse, the Tony Cruz-trained Pakistan Star.
“Blizzard is one of those horses that is ready to go out there and perform,” said Moreira, who could ride the talented five-year-old first-up in the Premier Bowl.
Tony Cruz was pleased with his internet sensation - Pakistan Star travelled prominently under Matthew Chadwick and kept on for third in 58.28s, his green and white hooded head looking this way and that through the final stage.
“He jumped nicely, that’s what we wanted to see,” Cruz said. “He travelled up with them and showed pace. He’ll be dropped in again when it comes to the race but it’s good to see him learning.”
Chadwick added: “He’s improved going into the gates, we’ve done a bit of education the past couple weeks, so going into the gates has improved. Today the trial felt a little slow and he just did his own thing.
“I wanted to jump well enough to try and take a sit off Blizzard. Joao was happy just to sit there and my fella was wondering about and looking around a bit, and then a gap opened between Blizzard and the other horse and he wanted to get going, so I let him stride through himself. He got there a bit early and just started idling. He put his head up and started looking around because there was nothing left to chase. That’s his running style, he likes to chase them and run them down.”
The Cruz-trained G1 stalwart Blazing Speed strode out in the ninth of the morning’s 12 trials, a 1600m turf heat, and ran home a half-length second to Consort in 1m 37.0s.
Gun Pit seems to have all but booked a trip to California for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita next month after an impressive spin under Zac Purton in batch 10, a 1200m all-weather trial.
Trainer Caspar Fownes pulled the Dubawi six-year-old from a planned run in Korea last month after a lacklustre trial but it was a different Gun Pit this morning. The G1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (2000m) runner-up crossed the line a close second to Wah May Friend in 1m 10.23s.
“He seems to be in better form than he was earlier in the season,” Purton said. “He’s trialling with a little bit more purpose now and he seems to be moving better, so it looks at this stage like he’s going to go to America. He feels fine - there’s nothing wrong with the way he’s going.”
Rome prevails in Oriental Watch 55th Anniversary Sha Tin Trophy23/10/2016
Prebble impressed as Lucky Bubbles takes Premier Bowl23/10/2016
Moreira hoping for Joy after tough Sha Tin Trophy decision22/10/2016
Sunday’s Premier Bowl sees Giant Treasure sprinting towards December’s Mile20/10/2016
Rapper among Moore collective in Sunday’s Oriental Watch feature 20/10/2016
“Winning Trainer” available on Sha Tin Trophy this Sunday 20/10/2016
Oriental Watch 55th Anniversary Sha Tin Trophy at Sha Tin Racecourse this Sunday20/10/2016
Aerovelocity back in the groove for Sunday’s G2 Premier Bowl18/10/2016
Dressing up with bows for the Gentlemen’s Bow-tie Day on 23 October at Sha Tin Racecourse06/10/2016
Big barrier trial session has Prebble bubbling as stars stride out at Sha Tin04/10/2016
Aerovelocity fires at the trials and Moore has word on Able Friend23/09/2016
Lucky Bubbles strides towards return13/09/2016