Banksters Bonus on the right path
Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby hopeful Banksters Bonus seems to be moving in the right direction and is primed for a decent second-up effort on Wednesday night, unlike a couple of highly-rated fellow four-year-olds, who continued to struggle at Friday's Sha Tin trials.
Banksters Bonus burst through to win a 1,200m trial on the all-weather track, finishing ahead of some nice sprinters.
Me Tsui Yu-sak has entered the Irish-bred gelding in a Class Two over 1,800m at Happy Valley, where his staying qualities will be better shown than in his solid mid-field effort at the same track three weeks ago over 1,650m.
Mark du Plessis rode the horse last start and again took the reins in the trial, falling straight to last after the jump, with the gelding lacking a little early dash. He worked along the rail and then overhauled the leading group late, pushing through a gap with Du Plessis not asking for much effort.
He cruised away to win by 13/4 lengths in relaxed fashion, beating Class Two-winning sprinter El Zonda and promising Flying Unicorn.
Banksters Bonus started off 86, which remained unchanged after his debut eighth and has him rated behind 21 Derby aspirants as of Thursday.
Trained by Jessica Harrington in Ireland, the honest campaigner collected two wins and was placed three times in seven starts. After a two-year-old maiden win on debut at The Curragh over 1,600m, he was then third in the Listed Eyrefie Stakes over 1,800m at Leopardstown.
His next win was as a three-year-old in the Ulster Derby, over the trying 2,573m course at Down Royal on rain-affected ground last June.
While races of that distance on soft tracks don't usually read well for a productive Hong Kong career, the horse at least showed some turn of foot at the end of the race and beat a field of older horses.
The Ulster Derby has been open to all ages since 1994 and Banksters Bonus finished ahead of six runners, all of whom were tough stayers aged five or over.
Another three-year-old to have won the Ulster Derby was Dermot Weld's Media Puzzle (2000), who won the trainer's second Melbourne Cup two years later.
Banksters Bonus carries the blue with yellow star colours of owner Samuel Leung Chun-wah, who has won three races this season with Leo's Pride.
While Banksters Bonus seems up to his mark and should get his chance to push for a place in the Derby on March 18, connections of the 93-rated Italian import Willie Cazals must be getting concerned about when their horse will get to the track, let alone the prestigious Group One he has been purchased for.
After already failing four trials by being slow away, the grey colt was again failed and will have to trial to the satisfaction of stewards, after he made a complete mess of the start and proceeded to overrace badly.
The Tony Cruz-trained gelding jumped poorly out of the gates for Gerald Mosse, half propping and getting his head in the air. When Mosse gave him a swift reminder with the whip, the horse charged into the first turn, throwing his head wildly.
Willie Cazals came to Cruz having won four from five in Italy, his only defeat a second in the Derby Italiano (2,220m), where he beat subsequent Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Danedream into third.