Centenary Vase test for Derby aspirant Helene Charisma


Centenary Vase test for Derby aspirant Helene Charisma

03/02/2017 15:03

By David Morgan

High-profile import Helene Charisma caught the eye behind Rapper Dragon on his local debut two weeks ago, and in Sunday’s (5 February) HK$3 million G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) the classy colt will attempt to strengthen his BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) credentials.

Champion jockey Joao Moreira will take the reins for the weekend feature having partnered the John Moore-trained four-year-old in two recent gallops, those workouts being the Brazilian’s only interactions with the horse since a step-out barrier trial on 13 December. 

“I’ve noticed a huge difference in this horse,” Moreira said at Sha Tin trackwork this morning, Friday, 3 February. “When I rode him in his first barrier trial he didn’t give me a very good feel, to be honest. I doubted that he was going to be able to adapt that quickly but it seems that process of acclimatising has been quite quick. His last run was quite eye-catching, so when John offered me the ride I was quite excited.”

Helene Charisma won the G1 Grand Prix de Paris (2400m) at Saint-Cloud, France, last July when named Mont Ormel. Alexis Badel, sitting out Sunday through suspension, partnered the Air Chief Marshal colt to finish ninth of 14 on his Hong Kong debut. That came in the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile, when the bay ran on from the tail, clocking a swift 22.11s through the closing 400m.

  • Helene Charisma finished ninth on his Hong Kong debut in the Hong Kong Classic Mile.
    Helene Charisma finished ninth on his Hong Kong debut in the Hong Kong Classic Mile.

“His recent trackwork has been very good and I’m excited about his run on the weekend,” Moreira said. “Based on his overseas form, you'd think the more ground he gets the better he’ll go. I think everything is going his way now and another point to add is the light weight he is going to have on his back - I think that will help him to finish strongly. I’m really looking forward to his race.”

Helene Charisma will shoulder a feather-weight in the nine-runner contest, his allotted impost being 113lb. With Horse Of Fortune burdened under 133lb top-weight thanks to a local rating of 114, the same mark as current four-year-old standout Rapper Dragon, a big run from Helene Charisma would show that he is on the right track to being a big player in the 19 March Derby. Moreira has faith.

“At this stage he would be in the top six (four-year-olds I have ridden), maybe a couple of steps behind the top ones, but he’s going forward and I wouldn’t be very surprised if he comes to Derby time close to the top ones,” he opined.

Horse Of Fortune’s trainer Tony Millard was this morning realistic about the task facing his smart six-year-old, a course and distance winner in November’s G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap when carrying 120lb, off a 4lb lower rating.

“It’s going to be very tough for him with that weight,” the trainer said. “He’s a courageous horse but it’s not going to be easy for him with 133 pounds on his back.”

The one out-of-town galloper in the Centenary Vase is Macau’s The Alfonso. Joe Lau’s charge will carry 129lb under Zac Purton.

“He’s the best horse in Macau and I’m looking forward to riding him. I might get on him tomorrow (Saturday) morning,” the rider said.

The field also includes Flame Hero (129lb), the Moore camp’s last start winner Harbour Master (128lb), Romantic Touch (128lb), Basic Trilogy (117lb), Helene Super Star (117lb) and Supreme Profit (113lb).

Cruzs Whip is cracking on towards the Derby

There are more BMW Hong Kong Derby clues to be gleaned from Sunday’s Class 2 Orchid Handicap (1400m) with California Whip (126lb), Western Express (121lb), Time Warp (121lb) and Dr Win Win (119lb) all holding entries for next month’s four-year-old showcase.

  • California Whip breaks through for a first local win last time out.
    California Whip breaks through for a first local win last time out.

California Whip broke his Hong Kong maiden at attempt three in a 1200m Class 3 dirt contest last start despite a 133lb burden. Tony Cruz’s charge returns to turf and Class 2 for this latest marker point en route to a probable Derby berth.

“He didn't beat much last time but at least he did it well,” Cruz said of last season’s Britannia Stakes third. “I’m expecting good things on Sunday, I’m very happy with his fitness and condition. He’s on the rise - he’s definitely improving all the time, so I’m happy with him. He’ll be a Derby contender.”

Moreira, meanwhile, is looking forward to reacquainting with Western Express, having been aboard the chestnut for his first three Hong Kong starts. Ryan Moore was in the plate for the John Size-trained gelding’s Classic Mile attempt, in which the Australian import faced a tough wide run and passed the post a fading 10th of 14.

  • Western Express scores first-up in Hong Kong over 1200m at Sha Tin earlier this season.
    Western Express scores first-up in Hong Kong over 1200m at Sha Tin earlier this season.

“He’s a very good horse,” Moreira said. “His last run, he had some excuses: he was quite wide and wasn’t able to finish, and he was running against some very strong competition. That indicates to me that he’s pretty good for a Class 2.

“The ideal would be a mile but I don't think, at this stage, John would have any other options. I’m ok to ride him over the 1400 and I think if he performs like he did in his first two races, he will be right there fighting for the win.”

And Moreira retains a belief that the son of Encosta De Lago has plenty more progression within.

“I always thought he was a really good horse so if, in time, he gets to the top level, matching those really good horses, I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said.

The Caspar Fownes-trained Dr Win Win, runner-up in the G3 Italian 2,000 Guineas (1600m) last year, was 10th at the course and distance on his Hong Kong bow last month. The Cruz-trained Time Warp faded to 11th at the course and distance on his local debut two weeks ago after working hard to cut out the early running,

Sunday’s action starts at 1pm with the Class 5 Azalea Handicap (1400m) and the 10-race card concludes with the 5.45pm Class 3 Pussy Willow Handicap (1200m).


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