As is always the case on a feature day at Sha Tin, the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup support card is peppered with quality, starting with a group of young stayers continuing their progression in the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup.
This season’s Group One BMW Hong Kong Derby form continues to stack up and although it gets another chance to be franked in the main race with Pakistan Star, there are seven runners from the Derby set down to contest the 2,400m Group Three.
Leading the way will be the tierce, and four of the first five, in the recent 2,200m Class Two, in which the John Moore-trained pair Beauty Connection and Eagle Way battled out a stirring finish ahead of John Size’s Dinozzo.
Another Moore-trained charge, Helene Charisma was fifth, and Size’s Prawn Baba was unplaced.
That quintet will be joined on Sunday by fellow four-year-olds Circuit Hassler and Gold Mount – with every one of the horses looking like a step up to a mile and a half will be beneficial.
Beauty Generation (Zac Purton) proved his class last time but a slight swing in the weights and a better draw could give Eagle Way (Joao Moreira) a better chance this time around.
Eagle Way was left flat-footed over 2,000m but not surprisingly the 2016 Queensland Derby winner bounced back with a massive run when stretched another 200m in the Class Two.
Even though Beauty Generation got the better of Eagle Way, the runner-up’s effort has to be rated at least as high, with a wide gate forcing Moreira into some tough tactics on the gelding.
Moreira was forced to go back from the 2,200m start and faced with a slow pace down the back straight, the Brazilian started a run more than 1,000m from home, hitting the front before the turn as he tried to pinch the race.
Meanwhile, Purton had positioned Beauty Generation in a nice one-off spot from a more favourable draw, and then got the back of Eagle Way after Moreira whipped around the field.
Beauty Generation only just won, and now gets top weight of 133 pounds and Eagle Way meets his rival three pounds better off for the short-head defeat.
This time, Beauty Generation has drawn two and Eagle Way barrier four, meaning Moreira should be able to be more positive on the stayer.
Even though Eagle Way was taken back in each of the four-year-old races, that was mainly due to circumstance. Negative tactics weren’t a surprise in the first leg of the series over a mile, before wide draws dictated that Eagle Way be taken back in the Hong Kong Classic Cup and then in the Derby.
Eagle Way showed he is versatile enough when he won first-up on international day, Hugh Bowman placing the horse sixth in the run from gate five.
Taking a more prominent spot in the run shouldn’t be difficult with the more sedate pace and easier starting point at 2,400m, and Eagle Way should be given a much easier task in running.
Helene Charisma (Douglas Whyte) looms as an obvious improver as the races get longer, with a view towards the Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup one month from now.
The French import also looks in desperate need of give in the ground, though, something the colt is unlikely to get despite some spots of rain this week.
Later in the day, two more beaten, but promising, Derby runners, Seasons Bloom and Booming Delight, make their reappearance when they drop back in trip in the 1,600m Class Two to close the card.
Seasons Bloom, with Purton replacing injured jockey Nash Rawiller, did a great job when stretched beyond what is probably his best trip in the four-year-old series.
Seasons Bloom was second in the Hong Kong Classic Mile but a third in the Classic Cup and fourth in the Derby could almost be considered just as impressive.
Booming Delight (Sam Clipperton) worked his way into the Derby with three straight wins and even though he hit a wall in the big one, looks a horse with some upside off his rating.