A trio of 2017 BMW Hong Kong Derby hopefuls, led by Tony Cruz’s well-bred prospect California Joy, will be looking to take another step up the ratings ladder with Class Three wins on Saturday.
The start of the four-year-old series doesn’t begin until late January with the Group One Hong Kong Classic Mile but the way this season’s age group is shaping, it might take a higher rating than usual to squeeze into the big races.
California Joy was a narrow winner when resuming three weeks ago – the son of Fastnet Rock notching his third win from six starts since stepping up to a mile midway through last term – and he can now make an important step to the brink of, or even into, Class Two with another win in the Chongqing Handicap.
Even though California Joy only scraped in by a short head last start, holding off the fast-finishing Redwood Baby, the winner was left exposed quite a way out and looked to float a little over the final stages.
With another low draw, this time gate two after jumping from three last start, jockey Joao Moreira should be granted the opportunity to find a perfect spot in the run and California Joy gets yet another chance over the mile.
Whether California Joy eventually wants more ground than that in future will be interesting – given he is a full brother to Group One-placed Australian stallion Stryker, a horse that raced as a sprinter throughout his career.
The biggest danger will be Marvel Hero (Zac Purton), who will provide a fascinating test of boom horse Pakistan Star’s form, to whom the Caspar Fownes-trained galloper was second to last start, and this 10-horse contest does look a race in two.
That runner-up effort to Pakistan Star made it two seconds in a row behind promising types for Marvel Hero – to go with a neck second to Dr Listening late last season.
Dr Listening (Moreira) makes his seasonal return over 1,400m and squares off against fit, in-form and progressive type Baba Mama (Derek Leung Ka-chun).
Dr Listening jumped seven points for his win in early July, but will still be getting three pounds from Baba Mama in the Tianjin Handicap.
Of course Baba Mama has the advantage of being the fit horse with a run already this term, and an impressive win at that, but Dr Listening will be carrying some residual fitness and has trialled twice in the lead-up.
Anytime Moreira takes the ride on a first starter the market reacts but Chris So Wai-yin’s four-year-old Dragon Warrior does seem well prepared for his first ever race start in a moderate looking Class Four.
A stress fracture suffered early last season probably delayed Dragon Warrior’s debut, although he was able to trial twice in June and then again twice on the dirt in preseason.
Another likely favourite for Moreira will be Iron Boy, with the Brazilian taking over from Kei Chiong Ka-kei after a narrow last start second.
As usual the final race of the day, a 1,200m Class Two, looks a cracking contest, with the draw throwing a curveball to leading hope Mr Bogart (Chad Schofield), who will drew barrier 10, and falling the way of other key hopes Key Witness (Matthew Chadwick), Line Seeker (Purton) and Eroico (Moreira), who will jump from barrier four, five and six respectively.