Leading local jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun is happy to pick up the ride on Seasons Bloom and believes the four-year-old is standing up to the workload of what has been a relatively strenuous season so far.
Seasons Bloom started the season rated 66 and after starting his campaign in November, went back-to-back in Class Three to force his way into the Hong Kong Classic Mile.
A second to Rapper Dragon put Seasons Bloom’s rating into the 90s, before a third in the Classic Cup boosted it to 97.
Seasons Bloom then ran admirably in the BMW Hong Kong Derby, finishing fourth and beaten less than four lengths in a race from which the form has continued to stack up.
Last start, Seasons Bloom was trapped three and four wide with no cover, his seventh beaten less than four lengths worth forgiving.
Given Seasons Bloom was rated a 3.1 favourite that day, he should be right in the reckoning again against similar Class Two opposition and over the same distance in the Lotus Handicap (1,600m).
Perhaps the main concern for Danny Shum Chap-shing’s prospect is how the lightly framed gelding is standing up to the workload heading into his eighth run of the term.
Seasons Bloom’s bodyweight is steady and a controlled gallop down the back straight on Thursday has Leung feeling confident about his chances.
“It was just easy work, he was relaxed, and we didn’t let him work hard,” Leung said, with Seasons Bloom clocking 25.1 seconds for his final 400m.
“Obviously he is already fit and the main thing is that he feels good. To me he looked and felt healthy. He is holding up well. He had excuses last start and if we can find cover this time he will be hard to beat.”
Seasons Bloom is one of a number of horses looking to push claims for the Group Three Premier Plate over 1,800m in around five weeks, including a couple of other promising four-year-olds Nassa (Karis Teetan) and Booming Delight (Sam Clipperton).
Missing the four-year-old series with Nassa wasn’t a deliberate ploy by trainer Tony Millard with the South African import, but it may result in a pay off.
Arriving on a rating of 88 courtesy of dual Group One placings, Nassa easily qualified for the Hong Kong Classic Mile but a setback late last year scuttled those chances before a lung infection caused more issues in January.
Still, that means Nassa isn’t in danger of suffering the same burn out as some of his rivals and has progressed nicely through two runs so far.
“His last run was very good – he had about six lengths to make up on the first few horses and he was really flying home, he ran to the line in 22.05 seconds, so that was fast,” Teetan said.
“We know he has class, he went close in the Cape Guineas back in South Africa, so if things go his way on Sunday he’s definitely a chance.”
Teetan galloped Nassa last week, the colt shifting gears on the turf as he zipped home in 21.5 seconds.
“He’s coming good at the right time,” Teetan said. “He has a lot of ability and he’s a nice horse going forward. Tony has him spot-on, I just hope he can get a good run in the race and I’m pretty sure he’ll be hitting the line strongly. He’s a lovely horse.”
The two horses that fought out the finish ahead of Seasons Bloom and Nassa last start, winner Eastern Express (Joao Moreira) and Booming Delight (Sam Clipperton) both line up again at the top of the weights.
Booming Delight meets his rival better at the weights this time and Clipperton is happy with the John Moore-trained charge’s work since that last run.
“The horse has taken a lot of improvement since that run and I’m very happy with how he’s going at home,” he said. “I think he’ll prove very hard to beat on Sunday. He’s a horse that I’ve got a lot of time for and obviously he’s got his fair share of ability; he’s definitely a horse to watch for the future.”