The Group Three Centenary Vase has not been a popular way to approach the Hong Kong Derby but it has had some success and Helene Charisma gets an imperfect opportunity to show that he is going to be a player in March in Sunday’s latest renewal.
Imperfect? Well, we’ll get to that but the three Vase winners who went on to the Derby this century were Industrial Pioneer (2001), Vengeance Of Rain (2005) and Plastic Polymer (2007) and picking the odd one out isn’t too tough.
Industrial Pioneer went on to win the Derby and a year later added a Gold Cup in a career that was curtailed by injury, Vengeance Of Rain won the Derby and pretty much everything else in a career that culminated with a Sheema Classic in Dubai.
For Plastic Polymer, the Vase win was the highlight of a career also interrupted by injury and he was long odds in the Derby and finished well back.
So it’s a Meatloaf lead-up – two out of three ain’t bad – and Helene Charisma (Joao Moreira) has the potential to add positively to that record today and give John Moore yet another Derby hope.
This horse seemed less than ready for his debut in the Classic Mile behind Rapper Dragon but did a good job to close strongly in a race that was well short of what he needs in terms of distance.
With the weak pace, Helene Charisma over-raced, struck some trouble but still returned a finishing sprint among the best in the race and he can only have improved in fitness for that appearance.
A Group One winner in France, albeit over 2,400m, he looks particularly well-handicapped here but the imperfection in all this is that he will probably sit last in a slowly run race again.
That means coming around or through a field of tough, experienced, if well-explored, older horses and that throws an element of luck into the mix.
If Moreira can provide the magic, Helene Charisma should get the job done.
There doesn’t look a whole lot between the rest of the field, so it becomes a lottery if the favourite doesn’t win but Supreme Profit (Chad Schofield) is racing particularly well and also comes into the race without any weight to carry.
He was lucky to beat another Derby prospect in Dinozzo two runs ago but beat him he did, and then he ran well behind that same horse last time with the 10-pound claimer aboard and will appreciate the positive jockey change.
Macau visitor The Alfonso (Zac Purton) comes off a relatively soft win at Taipa and has a chance but doesn’t get any weight drop coming in against tougher opposition today.