By Andrew Hawkins
There are many potential plot lines for Sunday’s (8 January) Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) at Sha Tin, but perhaps the oddest of them all is a case, of sorts, of fiction coming to life.
A 2005 feature film, released globally as Kill Zone but known locally as SPL: Sha Po Lang, saw characters played by Hong Kong icons Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung come to blows in a classic kung fu fight, with Yen prevailing after a bruising battle.
On Sunday, they meet once again, but this time on the racetrack – Yen is the co-owner of John Moore-trained Bad Boy, while Hung has travelled to Dubai and back with his galloper Amber Sky. The pair are among six runners in the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap, one of only two stakes races over the straight 1000m during the Hong Kong season.
Bad Boy (113lb) is a star on the rise, having won his last start in Class 2 very impressively under 133lb, while seven-year-old Amber Sky (115lb) is nearing the end of his Hong Kong career after an innings that stretches back almost five years.
For Moore, who also sends out last year’s winner Not Listenin’tome (132lb), it is a race that is ripe for the taking for a horse on the rise like Bad Boy.
“Bad Boy is very well placed at the weights, he’s going to be very hard to beat, there’s no doubt about it,” Moore said at the Sha Tin trials on Friday (6 January), indicating that he believes Sacred Kingdom’s track record of 54.7 seconds, set in March 2007, could be under threat. “They are going to go fast, very fast. With the speed they are going to go, perhaps even the record could be broken if there’s a tailwind.
“Amber Sky only knows one way and that’s low-level flying, Adventurer will go forward and that should allow my two to just take the sit behind them. Perhaps the danger will be Amazing Kids sitting off the hot tempo and flying at them late.”
Bad Boy will be Chad Schofield’s first ride of 2017 with the 22-year-old making his Hong Kong reappearance on Sunday after a month-long suspension, and he says he is thrilled to be given the chance to strike immediately upon his return.
“I’m delighted with the opportunity,” he said. “He has a light weight and I was able to get the nod. Obviously he’s now running against the A-graders but he couldn’t have done much more than what he’s done already. His last start was very impressive, running slick time with the top weight, now he drops to the minimum in a small field. Again, let’s hope he can run a similar time to what he has before and if he does, with the light weight, hopefully he can go even quicker.”
Not Listenin’tome won this race last year, which booked him a March trip to the G1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night, and Moore said the six-year-old was likely to return to seek desert riches this year, even with the Al Quoz Sprint stretched out from 1000m to 1200m.
“Not Listenin’tome is entered for Dubai, for the Al Quoz Sprint,” Moore said. “I didn’t enter Bad Boy as yet, but entries close next week, I believe, so if Bad Boy comes out and does what I think he can on Sunday, I’ll look at putting him in there too. But at this stage, Not Listenin’tome is likely to go back to Dubai.
“I’ve also entered Werther, Helene Paragon and Helene Happy Star across different races, but the only one of those that looks likely to go is Helene Paragon for the Dubai Turf. Helene Happy Star is not racing to his best currently, he’d need to turn it around, while Werther is a little bit behind where I’d want him to be. The plan initially was to trial him on the 17th and then run him in the Stewards’ Cup on the 30th but I’m really not sure if he’ll be ready now. His main goal is his QEII Cup defence anyway so I’d say Dubai is unlikely.”
Tony Cruz suggested his charge Peniaphobia (133lb) was unlikely to go back to Dubai, despite placing in the Al Quoz Sprint the last two years, while Ricky Yiu said his 2014 Al Quoz Sprint winner Amber Sky was “too old” to go back to Dubai.
“He’s doing really well, but he is coming towards the end of his career,” Yiu said. “If he was younger, maybe we could have gone back to Dubai or even Melbourne, but he’s seven now. Hopefully he can run well but he might just be too old. I will talk to the owner after this race.”
John Size-trained Amazing Kids (133lb), a stakes winner over the course and distance in October when he won the G3 National Day Cup Handicap, and Me Tsui’s smart four-year-old Adventurer (113lb) complete the line-up for the feature, which is set to jump as the third event at 2pm on Sunday.
Sunday’s finale to have Classic Mile implications
Moore had a big morning at the barrier trials on Tuesday with a number of his classic contenders stepping out, and he hopes that Sunday’s Class 2 Violet Handicap (1600m) may be a stepping stone to the Hong Kong Classic Mile for two of his four-year-olds, Beauty Generation and Rodrico.
Beauty Generation (130lb) stamped himself as a horse to watch for the Four-Year-Old Classic Series with his first Hong Kong run, when he finished three-quarters of a length second to My Darling on 27 December under Zac Purton, and Moore says he needed to run the Australian import once more before he stepped up to the classics.
“Beauty Generation will be taking one step closer to his Derby target here,” Moore said. “He could have gone straight to the Classic Mile but he’s a big, bulky fellow so I think this race will just improve his fitness. He was just out this morning and had a gallop and he loves it, he loves Hong Kong and he’s a happy horse. He’ll progress from here, too. His Australian form continues to look strong and I’m sure Zac is very happy with the way things are going for the horse.”
For his part, Purton believes that Beauty Generation is spot-on at the moment for a horse headed to March’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
“His first-up run was great, he did everything we hoped he was going to do,” he said. “He relaxed nicely, it was quite a fast-run race so it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see him relax the way that he did but he’s a relaxed customer in the mornings anyway and he powered to the line in good fashion.
“You only have to look at him to get a good feeling about him. He’s a lovely horse to look at, he’s got a great attitude and he’s done nothing wrong since the first day I got on him. He continues to work well and keeps progressing the way we want him to progress. He goes home and he eats his head off, John said he can’t keep his head out of the feed bin, so that’s a good sign, he’s obviously enjoying himself here. He’s right where you want him to be for a Derby horse.”
Moore also sends out Rodrico (125lb), who finished second to his new stablemate Eagle Way in the G1 Queensland Derby (2400m) in June, for his first run since in the Violet Handicap, with Sam Clipperton jumping aboard the son of High Chaparral.
“He’s in a very tough race, it looks the race of the day,” Clipperton said. “But he’s a nice horse, he’s obviously got good form from Australia. He doesn’t carry a lot of condition and he’s pretty forward I think, he’s had the two trials over a mile. It will be interesting to see how he goes, we’ll get a good guide on him, particularly in that race.”
The trainer had a further update on his potential Hong Kong Classic Mile runners after a number of his classic crop trialled on Tuesday (3 January) morning, with entries for the first of the big four-year-old races set to close on Monday (9 January).
“Rapper Dragon came out of his trial the other day very well, it was a good trial,” Moore said. “We’re very happy with him, it’s just that he had that setback so we lost a little bit of time. But we know now that Joao (Moreira) will ride him in the Classic Mile, so we’re starting to put our team together.
“I’ll be entering both Helene Charisma and Booming Delight in the Classic Mile too, but there’s an 1800m Class 2 on the same day that will suit both of them. Victory Magic ran in it last year on his way to the Derby.
“Hopefully Beauty Generation and Rodrico can join my Classic Mile squad after Sunday.”
The Class 2 Violet Handicap closes the card on Sunday with a scheduled post time of 5:45pm, with the first, the Class 5 Fire-Cracker Vine Handicap (1600m), due to jump at 1pm.