Epic Express may have been smooth as silk yesterday, but if it's guts and sheer determination you want from a Derby horse then look no further than Rainbow And Gold, whose dogged victory in the eighth race was the highlight of a treble for high-flying Irishman John Egan.
Brian Kan Ping-chee's four-year-old took time to adjust to life in Hong Kong following his transfer from Ireland, but yesterday's .75-length victory over the Derby trip of 2,000 metres completed a hat-trick for the ultra-game son of Gulch and confirmed him as a live outsider for next month's big race.
Egan, one of many impressed by last-race winner Epic Express, was also full of praise for Rainbow And Gold, who as a two-year-old in Ireland was good enough to finish second to subsequent English and Irish Derby winner Sinndar.
'His form was pretty good in Ireland, and maybe he took time to acclimatise here. He was hanging a bit with me when I got to the front, and I had to pull my whip through to keep him straight, but like all of Brian Kan's horses he is very tough,' said Egan.
Rainbow And Gold, who comes from the family of US Classic winners AP Indy and Summer Squall, may not have the dramatic turn of foot possessed by Epic Express, but this win proved he is more than a dogged stayer. With Majestic Warrior setting a steady pace, Egan was able to take a good position in fifth for most of the trip before bringing Rainbow And Gold with a run that gained momentum gradually rather than rapidly. He was firmly in control through the final 200 metres despite the efforts of Optical Family and Viper Corp, who put up a decent display on only his fourth start for Gary Ng Ting-keung.
Earlier, Egan had been the dirt king as he won both races on the surface with well-judged rides on the Kan-trained Amiable and Peter Chapple-Hyam's Bon Bon. The victories took Egan's score for the season to 33, one behind reigning champion Robbie Fradd but still 11 behind leader Douglas Whyte, and the Irishman was quick to play down his title chances. 'It will be very tough to catch Dougie because he is riding so well, and also because he has been here a lot longer than me and has good connections. Maybe next year when I know more people I'll be able to have a proper crack at the title,' he said.
Egan's first dirt success came in the fifth race over 1,800 metres when he hugged the rail on Amiable inside the pacesetting Quick Commander before surging clear in the straight to score by 2.75 lengths from Peaceful Century.
Amiable, who had finished second on his only previous attempt over course and distance, was following up his last-start win over the turf mile and was a good pick-up ride for Egan in the absence of the suspended Gerald Mosse. Kan's double with Rainbow And Gold and Amiable moved him on to the 38-winner mark, seven clear of championship rival David Hayes.
Egan's other dirt win came in the seventh race over 1,650 metres when Bon Bon held on gamely by a neck from Pegasus Star. The American-bred winner has been a consistent performer on the dirt this season, but he was bouncing back from a troubled run last time in the race where Fradd suffered his horror fall after Night Hunter broke a leg.
Chapple-Hyam, recording his fifth success of the season and his third with Bon Bon, explained: 'This horse needs to box seat, but he was badly drawn last time and then the horse fell in front of him, so he got too far back in the field.
'He had barrier four today, and John was able to get a good position. He loves the dirt and is tough, and if I had five horses like him, I'd be all right.'