Connections have high hopes for Derby-bound Algarve and Irian
Big-spending owner Siu Pak-kwan will be awaiting Sunday's Sha Tin meeting with great anticipation as his talented stars Algarve and Irian begin to stake their claims for the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) on March 14.
Irian, who cost US$2 million, is a German stakes-winner and will make his first Hong Kong appearance on Sunday for trainer John Moore, who says he is 'dying to see him race'.
'Getting horses like Irian, and getting them to go all the way to the top is what my life as a trainer is all about now,' he said.
'I couldn't be happier with how he has settled in and, from the first week I had him, you could see his German toughness coming through in everything he did.
'He has had a barrier trial, and [jockey] Darren [Beadman] was very happy and we are full of high hopes for the horse.'
Moore will be hoping to see Beadman use Irian's trademark turn of foot in his 1,400-metre assignment, and expects him to be charging home late after settling at the rear.
'He has never raced at less than 1,600 metres, and they will go a lot quicker on Sunday than what he is used to in Europe,' Moore said. 'But he does have a turn of foot and I'll be looking for him to be charging home late. From there it will be straight into the Derby Trial, and then onto the Derby.'
Algarve will be facing his toughest test in the Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Mile (1,600m), and trainer David Hall is looking forward to the challenge. 'He has climbed through the lower classes pretty comfortably, and this looks a good stepping stone for him in terms of progressing to the Derby,' Hall said.
'He will be tested against the likes of Beauty Flash, who is already rated at 116, while Algarve is currently rated 89 and he has to take them on at set weights, but this looks the best path for him to take in terms of a Derby preparation and Sunday's race will tell us a lot about where he stands.'
Siu has been in a similar position in the past - his 2003 Classic Mile winner Self Flit went on to run second in the Derby behind Elegant Fashion - so he knows a win on Sunday is only a part step towards classic success.
'It is easy to map out big plans for Algarve and say he'll go straight to the Derby Trial and then on to the Derby. While that does look a good progression, we'll have to see what he shows on Sunday before we get ahead of ourselves,' Hall said.
'He has so much scope as an individual and is built in the mould of a classic staying horse, but plenty can go wrong between now and March.'
The Hong Kong Derby on March 14 will offer a total prize money of: $16m