A drop in class and gate one gives The Golden Age a golden opportunity to push his BMW Hong Kong Derby credentials when the talented French-bred four-year-old contests the Class Two Siu Sai Wan Handicap (1,650m) on Wednesday at Happy Valley.
Trainer Tony Cruz has chosen an unconventional path to the Derby with The Golden Age, skipping the Hong Kong Classic Mile against his own age group and testing the gelding in the Group Three January Cup two weeks ago after two impressive wins at the city track.
The Golden Age performed well in the Valley’s only Group race, finishing second, three-quarters of a length behind tough stayer Eagle Way.
The Golden Age did get some favours, most notably an uncontested lead that allowed jockey Matthew Chadwick to dictate the race and jog along at some very slow sectionals before sprinting home.
It could be argued The Golden Age was given every possible chance under the circumstances, which also included a 15-pound weight pull on the winner, but it must also be taken into account that he was facing a field full of more seasoned competitors.
Eagle Way is now likely to be aimed at Group One middle distance and staying races and The Golden Age drops back into Class Two company, a grade where he has already been successful twice this season.
The Golden Age already has a rating of 96 that would see him easily qualify for the remaining legs of the four-year-old series, the Hong Kong Classic Cup on February 18 and the Derby on March 18.
But first The Golden Age also drops back to the extended mile from 1,800m, the same course and distance he won over first-up.
Of course, this time he carries 129 pounds in a field that includes three of the horses who finished close behind him in the January Cup; Dinozzo (Jack Wong Ho-nam), Marvel Hero (Joao Moreira) and Citron Spirit (Umberto Rispoli).
With the rail out in the C + 3 position, Chadwick will again be in a prominent spot and even if The Golden Age doesn’t lead he should again have every chance.
On Sunday, Matthew Poon Ming-fai snapped a long run of outs and the apprentice’s seven-pound claim should help G-One Lover go back-to-back with a win in the Class Three Tai Hang Tung Handicap (1,200m).
G-One Lover only scraped home by a nose under hard riding from Zac Purton in December but adding to the merit of the victory was that the six-year-old had sat three-wide with no cover for the trip.
Poon’s seven-pound claim negates the seven-point ratings rise and this time G-One Lover is almost guaranteed a softer run after drawing barrier two.
G-One Lover’s trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing has hit a purple patch of form since suffering broken ribs in a scary incident in his stable on January 19.
Shum trained his first four-timer on Sunday, including a Group One win with Seasons Bloom, and has won with six of his past 25 starters since leaving hospital.
A return to Happy Valley and barrier one should help London Master (Derek Leung Ka-chun) in the Class Four Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Cup after a solid run at Sha Tin.
London Master was successful on the smaller track two starts back before a wide draw saw him taken back in the field at Sha Tin.
The David Ferraris-trained sprinter, who has found a new lease of life this season after throat surgery, worked home well for fifth but is probably better suited back at the Valley.