Dream Team adds spice to Derby

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 March, 2009, 12:00am

A likely playmaker in the shape of Tony Cruz's Dream Team was a surprise acceptor for the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby yesterday - ensuring the race will be truly run.

While the emergence of the John Moore-trained Collection has dampened the enthusiasm of many Derby hopefuls, Cruz and owner Lawrence Ma Ting-hung have decided to press ahead with Dream Team, even though he has not been tried beyond 1,400 metres.

'I guess it was a bit of a surprise that Dream Team's connections wanted to try him at the 2,000 metres of the Derby but given the quality of his wins and his obvious class, there was no way to leave him out of the race from our point of view,' said senior handicapper Nigel Gray.

Unbeaten in two starts in Australia and three from five since his arrival in Hong Kong, Dream Team is a fast, free-running horse.

John Size, who will be double-handed with Unique Jewellery (Olivier Doleuze) and More Bountiful (Douglas Whyte), summed up the general Derby sentiment when he said: 'It looked like being the most competitive Derby for years until that superstar [Collection] turned up.'

Moore said yesterday Collection was a 'worthy favourite' and did nothing to dampen the hype surrounding the son of 1997 European champion three-year-old Peintre Celebre.

'I said before last Saturday's race he'd emerge as the Derby favourite and everyone saw what he did,' Moore said, recalling the spectacular 41/4-length victory under 132 pounds.

A number of Derby fancies went around in a special mile turf trial yesterday, with victory going to the Caspar Fownes-trained Vigor Delight, handled by stand-in rider Brett Doyle. Vigor Delight will be ridden in the Derby by Shane Dye. 'Vigor Delight has taken a while acclimatising but he ran very well in the Classic Mile and unfortunately drew a wide barrier in the Derby Trial,' Fownes said. 'Brett said he gave him a really good feel today so it looks like we'll have him peaking at the right time.'

More Bountiful, a disappointing seventh to Unique Jewellery in the Derby Trial, showed a return to his true form with a professional third in the trial, beaten 13/4 lengths. 'He relaxed nicely and didn't pull, and the jockey was happy with him - that's all I wanted,' Size said.

Other Derby contenders to contest the trial were Legend Of Colour (4th), Roma Pegasus (5th), Redragtoabull (7th) and Kings Falcon (8th).

Christophe Soumillon has been confirmed as the rider for displaced Derby favourite Thumbs Up, with the Jockey Club licensing secretary Kim Kelly announcing the approval of a one-day licence for the Belgian.

The committee also approved Felix Coetzee to take the mount on the Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Forever and Dye for Vigor Delight.

Executive director of racing Bill Nader said the Derby was shaping as the strongest field for many years and he noted the significance of the HK$16 million prizemoney in international terms.

'The Derby is the richest event on the domestic calendar and is the second most lucrative Derby in the world behind its Japanese equivalent, the Tokyo Yushun,' Nader said. 'That puts it ahead of some of the world's major classics, including the Kentucky Derby, Epsom Derby, UAE Derby and the Australian Derby.'