Blinkered Masquerader ready to steal show
Owner Leung Kai-fei won the 2004 Hong Kong Derby with Lucky Owners and couldn't relive the dream in this season's classic with Masquerader, but the Tony Millard-trained runner appears to be on the right path with an encouraging third in the Class One Venus Handicap (1,200m) at the all-dirt meeting on Wednesday night.
Masquerader was racing against time to get into the Derby and was rushed into action on Hong Kong Gold Cup day in a Class Two over 1,400m on February 26 after only landing in early December. He was given a dream run but didn't let down when asked for an effort at the 200m behind Fulfil A Wish.
Nonetheless, carrying some smart form in his 10-outing career in Australia for two wins and two placings, Masquerader was able to earn a starting spot 21 days later off a rating of 92 in the Derby, but showed nothing behind Fay Fay.
Following an ideal preparation over the next 59 days with two solid trials, including a six-length romp on a sloppy dirt track, the four-year-old was firmly in the market at 10-1.
Two pounds over at 115 with Tim Clark in the saddle, Masquerader copped a bump on both sides from Straight Gold and Flying Colours soon after the break, but still showed speed with the blinkers - a gear he wore for the first time when placing in the Caulfield Guineas - to pull himself forward to settle three deep without cover in fourth outside Good Words behind the genuine pace of Blaze King and Horse Galore. He improved three wide to third approaching the straight, responded to hit the lead at the 200m, before going down fighting to outsider Flying Colours and Cerise Cherry.
While he is never going to draw comparison to his sire Lucky Owners, who landed a Hong Kong Mile before his Derby success, Masquerader should be able to perform with merit as a sprinter to an 1,800m performer, according to his pedigree.
His dam, a Geiger Counter mare, was a winner up to 1,400m and her first foal was the locally performed Lucky Amore, a smart sprinter who achieved two wins over the Valley 1,200m and three placings up to 1,400m from nine starts.
Millard (pictured) and the Leung family have had a good run this season with Flying Unicorn and Talley Close, and it will only be a matter of time when Masquerader rings up a win in the purple and gold chevron silks.