Hong Kong racing is desperate for a new hero to fill the void left by last season’s departed stars and trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing is hopeful Sunday’s HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup winner Seasons Bloom is that horse.
Last season saw an exodus of top-rated gallopers, especially from the mile ranks, a category which Shum and jockey Joao Moreira feel Seasons Bloom may fly the Bauhinia flag come International Day.
Sunday’s 1,200m contest was clearly on the short side for the five-year-old, who had run well in the four-year-old series behind Rapper Dragon and scored a comprehensive late season win in Class Two, but a win with something in hand was a clear step up.
“There’s an opportunity there for a good horse at Group One level and I think he might have the ability,” Shum said after Seasons Bloom swooped from the tail in a fast-run race.
“There’s no Able Friend and Rapper Dragon there, maybe the mile races will be weaker. He has to step up again, at least we have a ticket for the big races now. His rating will be up to 115 and that is enough to get into the Hong Kong Mile most years.”
How Shum plots a path to December 10 seems straightforward as well, with the next assignment being the Group Three Celebration Cup over 1,400m on October 1, followed by the Group Two Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy on October 22 and the Group Two Jockey Club Mile three weeks later.
“It’s perfect, three weeks between each run and top fitness on the big day,” the trainer said.
Shum was hopeful Moreira, who is now two for two on the horse, would stick with Seasons Bloom and the in-demand Brazilian is happy with the ride for now.
“It is a bit too early to commit, but if I had to decide today who I would ride in the Hong Kong Mile, he would be the one,” Moreira said. “I’ve been saying that he could be an international horse for a long time, and he didn’t let me down today. That was a distance short of his best but the way he let down in the straight was impressive.”
Moreira settled Seasons Bloom at the tail of the seven-runner field and the solid tempo certainly helped his cause, with Fabulous One breaking 22 seconds from the 800m to the 400m mark, but Seasons Bloom’s final 400m sectional of 21.52 was still a world-class split.
The tempo worked against runner-up Blizzard, but Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s gelding still did enough to book a trip to Japan for the Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama on October 1.
“I was really pleased with the way he bounced out of the gates and put himself in the race,” jockey Zac Purton said. “I didn’t think I would be in front of Magic Legend, and I thought I would take some beating from there, but with the race run the way it was, tracking a fast pace with a big weight, it’s hard to finish off. He ran very well, he is very honest.”
Leader Fabulous One clung on for third but the disappointment was race favourite Magic Legend, with the John Moore-trained four-year-old failing to show his usual zip.
“Tommy Berry got off and said the horse now needs 1,400m,” Moore said. “He was outpaced which was a surprise, he will back up next week in the Kwangtung Handicap Cup.”