Classy Masquerader not hiding anything in barrier trials
Douglas Whyte had his first feel of Classic-bound Masquerader yesterday morning and would have been impressed after Tony Millard's highly-rated import produced another top notch trial on the all-weather track.
While most of the four-year-olds set for the Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby (March 18) will compete in Sunday's Hong Kong Classic Cup over 1,800m, including Whyte's likely Derby mount Fay Fay, Millard will look to other options to ready his horse for the 2,000m grand final.
Yesterday's 1,050m dirt spin was his second since arriving in the South African's yard and he showed improvement on the first trial, which was another eye-catching workout.
Whyte bounced Masquerader across from barrier eight and he tracked behind leader Fatboy Sugar, who had crossed from his outside. He was again hard on the steel through the middle stages, as he was for Brett Doyle two weeks ago, and pulled his way to the front in the straight to win by a comfortable 31/2 lengths.
The time of 1.01.5 was 11/2 seconds faster than his first trial over the same course, and the closing 400m sectional of 22.3 was quicker too.
The horse had clearly been given a solid grounding before arriving on December 6 - he looks fit and his recovery after the trial was good.
The only concerns for Millard might be the horse's keenness in his trials, given he will be stretched to 2,000m in just over a month, and where to give the horse a lead-up run.
Masquerader showed precocity by winning a Group Two at his second start as a two-year-old, but also went on to perform credibly in the Australian three-year-old races over longer trips. His race replays reveal he can relax and he was working home evenly behind Jimmy Choux in the 2011 Rosehill Guineas (2,000m).
His rating (92) has him safely ensconced in the Derby field and Millard's likely option for a run beforehand is a class two over 1,400m on Sunday week.
Masquerader is the son of another Hong Kong Derby winner Lucky Owners, and raced by the sire's owner Leung Kai-fai.
In the second trial, a move to blinkers by Caspar Fownes seemed to elicit some spark from first-season Private Purchase Perfect Cheers.
The four-year-old has been disappointing in his three runs, but tellingly, scored in both of his Australian starts wearing shades, which Fownes hasn't yet tried in a race. He tracked home for third in his 1,050m heat for Olivier Doleuze, and while it wasn't an earth-shattering performance, it was an improvement on recent efforts.