Prized inside draws have trainers fired-up for fascinating HK Derby
Connections of the top Derby chances shuffled nervously towards the stage at the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby barrier draw at Sha Tin racecourse yesterday, but most strode away with wide smiles as all bar one of the favoured runners drew prized inside barriers.
The barrier draw has done little to help punters separate the wheat from the chaff in the most open Derby of recent years with top chances Beauty Flash, King Dancer, Brave Kid and Super Satin drawing ideal gates for the HK$16 million race.
Unbeaten Fair Trade was the exception and drew the outside alley, but the camp's spirits were not dampened, and jockey Shane Dye is confident he can make the best of gate 14. 'It shouldn't matter too much for Fair Trade, we will just have to go back from that gate,' he said. 'It might help him in the end because we won't have any other option than to ride him from the rear, and he has the turn of foot when he sprints that allows him to race, and win, that way.'
Brett Prebble rode Fair Trade to victory in the Chinese New Year Cup, but is on the only other unbeaten runner in the field on Sunday, the John Size-trained Brave Kid, who will begin from barrier four.
'Four is perfect, the barrier is a big thing in Group One races,' Prebble said. 'Brave Kid is a definite top-three horse in my opinion and the good barrier will hopefully make my job a whole lot easier.
'Fair Trade was probably the only one of the main chances that drew poorly, but he has a brilliant turn of foot and, if the race pans out for him, he will be hard to beat.
'Super Satin and King Dancer also have that great turn of foot and are the other main dangers.'
Prebble will speak with Size to devise a plan to extend the unbeaten Brave Kid's six-start winning streak to an historic seven in one season.
'You can't ask the horse to do any more than he has already done, but he is fit, he's a fighter and we have to give him the chance to keep going and do the impossible,' Size said.
Champion jockey Douglas Whyte is yet to claim his first Derby victory and made the agonising decision to part with Brave Kid so he could take the ride on Caspar Fownes' Super Satin.
'I was hoping for a barrier between four and seven, so to get seven is terrific,' Whyte said. 'Apart from the little hiccup for Fair Trade, the other chances have drawn well, too, and hopefully we will see the best horse win on Sunday.
'I was very happy with Super Satin's trial last Friday, and if you compare it with his previous trial before the Derby Trial I would say he felt a lot better this time. He really hit the line like an expert and I hope he can do the same on the day.'
Whyte also commented on the open nature of this year's Derby and said he was pleased there was no stand-out favourite. 'It is nice for a change not to have a stand-out,' he said. 'When there is a stand-out chance, it is like he is wearing a yellow jersey, but this year it looks a race among four or five top hopes.'
Tony Cruz's Beauty Flash is likely to dictate the early race tempo and will have every chance to do so from gate two, while John Moore's Irian drew barrier nine.