The question was asked of every Group Two-winning trainer and jockey on Sunday; “how much was left in the tank for international day?” but it seemed particularly pertinent when posed to Danny Shum Chap-shing regarding Seasons Bloom.
A big win on opening day was followed by a flat effort second-up in the Group Three Celebration Cup, after which Shum opted to give his rising star a break.
Skipping a race with the lightly framed five-year-old proved the key to Seasons Bloom’s victory on Sunday but now there is no time for another freshen-up and Shum must get the gelding to lift again in just three weeks for the Group One Hong Kong Mile.
“I’ll try and keep him fresh and happy,” Shum said. “He is only a small horse, but he has a big heart and if we keep him happy and keep him fresh – he will run really well.”
Winning jockey Joao Moreira admitted he “had to use everything he had over the last furlong” to get Seasons Bloom to win, which suggests Shum will have a tough task avoiding another dip in form next start.
Outpaced early from barrier nine, Seasons Bloom ended up three-wide and without cover for much of the turn, entering the straight even wider.
Seasons Bloom may have been outpaced early but he outsprinted John Moore’s pair Helene Paragon (Tommy Berry) and Beauty Generation (Derek Leung Ka-chun) late, with last year’s Hong Kong Mile winner Beauty Only (Zac Purton) a stout fourth.
Moore pointed out that Helene Paragon had suffered a setback late last season and that the entire’s second placing was above expectations.
“Given the hindquarter problem he had we knew he would need two runs to be getting back to his best and that he was behind on fitness – but during the race I thought he was still going to win it,” Moore said. “I still think he is a half-length better horse than Beauty Only.”
Berry added he had ridden Helene Paragon more conservatively given the five-year-old was still short of peak fitness.
“I was really happy how he travelled, coming around the corner I actually sat up a bit because I wanted to help him finish off because I knew he was still underdone,” he said.
“He peaked with 100m to go anyway, but I really liked the fact that when the winner got past he tried to fight back. He will improve and he is just where we want him to be.”
Also expecting improvement from his charge is Purton, with Beauty Only producing a final 400m sectional that was just three-hundredths of a second slower than Seasons Bloom’s while carrying five pounds more than the winner.
“I thought he ran well, he has been a little bit overweight this season,” Purton said. “He is older now and he had the trip to Japan in June, so he has taken a little bit longer to come to hand. Today showed he is getting back to where he needs to be.”