A pair of Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby hopefuls went toe-to-toe in an all-weather trial at Sha Tin yesterday as they rounded-out preparations for next Sunday's big race.
Bullish Champion and Fay Fay finished one-two in their 1,200m dirt jump-out, both looking as good as can be for their first try over 2,000m.
Earlier this season, Tony Cruz said Bullish Champion would not get more than 1,200m after he failed to run out a strong 1,400m, but he then produced two strong runs over the seven furlongs.
Excited owners convinced Cruz to try his luck in the Derby and the classy colt will now jump the extra 600m with five weeks between runs.
Matthew Chadwick (pictured) will ride Bullish Champion on Sunday week and yesterday he gave the muscular type a decent hit out, taking him to the front and was then slipping him some rein down the stretch to ensure he won the trial.
The John Size-trained Fay Fay seems to have peaked on his rating of 110 and might have just reached his limit, but he could not be faulted on yesterday's strong display.
Douglas Whyte restrained Fay Fay at the start and then let him stride forward, all the while under a constant hold, and he finished 11/2 lengths behind the heat winner and full of running.
Whyte partnered another Size-trained horse in the other heat, Earl Of Leitrim, who was being forced to trial again after hanging badly last start. The four-year-old, who has had two fourths here, was given a thorough workout by Whyte. There was no sign of the misbehaviour that plagued him last start and he finished off strongly to win by 41/2 lengths going away. It took Whyte until half way down the back straight to pull the horse up and he came back blowing hard.
An unimpressive fourth and looking a tired horse was Cruz's Best Eleven, who failed to respond in his usual manner when asked for an effort from Chadwick.