Derby on the agenda for classy private-purchase colt Saturn

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 September, 2003, 12:00am

Former Jockey Club chairman Alan Li Fook-sum has bought high-class galloper Saturn from England, with the stated aim of capturing next year's $14 million Hong Kong Derby. Saturn, with a rating of 113, will be the second-highest rated private purchase for the year, behind Roosevelt, third in the Irish Derby, who has joined the David Oughton yard.

Saturn was prepared by Michael Bell and has raced nine times for two wins (both on good to firm ground) and a head second to Kalabar in the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano, a Group Two race for three-year-olds over 2,000 metres.

The colt's new trainer will be Ivan Allan, which is fitting because Saturn is a son of Marju, a Royal Ascot Group One winner and Epsom Derby runner-up, whose best son was the Allan-trained champion Indigenous.

Li said he spotted Saturn in a telecast of the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano while on holiday at the French seaside resort of Deauville. 'Saturn really took my eye,' Li said. 'I liked the way he raced over 2,000 metres and I thought he was a good prospect for Hong Kong.'

Next step was to call his son, Dominic, a former bloodstock agent who is now the Jockey Club's manager of international races and sale.

'Dominic asked his friend, [British agent] Andrew Sime about the horse and it happened that Andrew had Saturn on his list of prospects and was quite keen on the horse as well. So we made an offer,' Li said.

'I always enjoy my racing, but if Saturn is successful it will even more satisfying because I identified the horse myself.'

Although the purchase price remains undisclosed, the colt's former owners - a partnership under the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing banner - revealed it was 'significantly more' than the 100,000 Irish Guineas (HK$1.4 million) they paid for him as a yearling.

Saturn showed genuine classic potential as a juvenile, winning a maiden at 1,400 metres at Newmarket before taking the Haynes, Hanson And Clark Conditions Stakes over a mile at Newbury - a race won by top-class performers like Henbit, Shergar, Rainbow Quest and Nayef on their way to the top.

Saturn was fifth, beaten by three lengths, in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes (1,400 metres), England's juvenile championship, before being put away for the winter. This season the colt ran a promising fifth behind Refuse to Bend in the English 2000 Guineas (Group One), fourth behind Indian Haven in the Irish equivalent, and second in the race where Li spotted him.