Viva Pataca will take plenty of beating
Viva Pataca is definitely the one to beat in the $14 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby next month in the wake of his sizzling victory in Class Two company at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Although there is the inclination for overseas racing people to view Class Two racing as 'restricted class', the reality is that the top level performers in this grade in Hong Kong rate as high as many Listed or even Group Three races internationally.
Viva Pataca (pictured) certainly did. With Christophe Soumillon making one of his inspired dashes to the outside fence shortly after straightening, the Marju gelding opened up a big break on some solid, consistent performers and in doing so recorded a time of one minute, 35.1 seconds.
This time was 0.6 seconds faster than standard, after factoring out the speed of the track on the day, and marked the run of this fast emerging four-year-old as quite exceptional.
To give some perspective to the merit of the performance, stablemate Sunny Sing won two races in Class Two on the way to taking out the $8 million Mercedes-Benz Classic Mile on February 5. Each of Sunny Sing's C2 wins rated two lengths below the figure posted by Viva Pataca in the Chukyo Handicap, but he was still able to progress to Group One level at his next run.
Hail The Storm's last win in Class Two measured 11/2 lengths inferior to Viva Pataca's win, yet he was able to finish second to Sunny Sing in the Classic Mile.
To give some even greater relativity to the effort, Viva Pataca is now only a length behind the standard set by Vengeance Of Rain in his two-win lead-up to last year's Derby, which he ultimately took handsomely from Russian Pearl.
Although racing in a lower grade, Hawkes Bay also showed he is made of the right stuff. The Vettori colt's soft win over Quest For Fame gelding Good Partner was suitably impressive, and it's notable that his winning time of 1:35.6 was also 0.6 seconds faster than Class Three standard.
Hawkes Bay was an astute purchase by David Hall on behalf of owner Daryl Ng Win-kong, son of property magnate Robert Ng Chee Siong and grandson of Singapore's biggest racehorse owner, Ng Teng Fong.
The colt raced just five times in England from the stables of Mark Tompkins, for a win and three minor placings. But one of those placings was a pointer of the strongest kind - a third to the ultra-impressive Mostashaar in the Britannia Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting at York.
The Britannia is classed as a Heritage Handicap in England and it usually takes a Group-class horse to win it. In 2001, for example, it was won by the John Gosden-trained Analyser, but runner-up was Olympic Express, who next year won the Hong Kong Derby, beating Precision, and the Hong Kong Mile beating Electronic Unicorn.
The opening race for griffins was an interesting affair and John Moore once again takes the kudos as Hong Kong's unchallenged 'griffin master'.
His charge Inspiration [by Flying Spur] was backed as though unbeatable and duly saluted, despite some apparent greenness.
Inspiration is a three-quarter brother to the previous year's winner, Lucky Unicorn, and interestingly rated 11/2 lengths better than his close relative did 12 months earlier.
HORSES TO FOLLOW:
Viva Pataca, Inspiration, Sevens Heaven.