A lucky boy named Lucky Girl was the only surprise when the BMW Hong Kong Derby field was officially released yesterday, although there was confirmation from Sun Jewellery’s trainer John Size that Ryan Moore will return to ride the leading chance on March 20.
Lucky Girl is actually an oddly named gelding trained by Dennis Yip Chor-hong that has just one win from six lifetime starts and, with a rating of 78, will be by far the lowest-rated runner of the 14 horses selected to contest the HK$18 million feature.
At the top end of the race, there is the 110-rated Sun Jewellery, winner of the first two races of the four-year-old series - the Classic Mile over 1,600m and the Classic Cup over 1,800m. In both races, Moore was aboard, but there had been some conjecture that he would miss the ride on Sunday week due to a commitment to Coolmore and the European racing giant’s Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien on the same weekend.
Size yesterday ended that speculation, saying the champion jockey would be aboard Sun Jewellery at Sha Tin.
“Yes, Ryan will ride, although I hadn’t really thought about the possibility that he wouldn’t,” Size said after a ceremony at Happy Valley.
Size and the trainer of fellow leading hope Blizzard, Ricky Yiu Poon-fai, were grilled about their horses’ chances and, specifically, whether they can run a strong 2,000m.
“There is always going to be some doubts about the distance with a horse like this, with his style of racing,” Size said of Sun Jewellery, a horse that has won six from seven for the trainer, but never beyond the 1,800m of last start.
“He does seem to be the type of horse that has the character to go on and win a race when he gets attacked close to the line.
“He just keeps finding that little bit extra to win and maybe that will help him at the 2,000m,” added Size, who also has Eastern Express in the field as he chases back-to-back Derby wins after Luger’s triumph last year.
Yiu was still beaming after Blizzard, beaten just a neck by Sun Jewellery in the Classic Cup, put in an eye-catching 1,600m barrier trial at Sha Tin on Tuesday.
“He seems to be getting more relaxed every time we step him up over a distance,” he said of a horse that the trainer had initially said would not race beyond a mile.
“His trial on Tuesday was fantastic, he just went to sleep in the run and finished off nicely.”
Lucky Girl is the lowest-rated horse to contest the Derby since Paul O’Sullivan’s Matiri King ran second-last in 2006, although connections might gain encouragement from the 82-rated Endorsing’s second to Akeed Mofeed in 2013.
Even though Lucky Girl seems hopelessly overmatched and is likely to start at long odds, it hasn’t stopped owners from planning to fly in Brazilian Silvestre de Sousa from England to ride the horse after he was on board for its only victory last month.
In other jockey news, Chad Schofield has been confirmed as the new rider for Richard Gibson-trained colt Consort, replacing suspended Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon and giving the rising star his first ride in the race.
The owners of Friends Of Ka Ying will apply for Australian Tye Angland to fly in for the Derby and trainer John Moore confirmed Tommy Berry would ride Helene Paragon after Joao Moreira opted to ride Tony Cruz-trained chance Giovanni Canaletto.