The 2018 Hong Kong Derby horses step out in distance in a wide open Kowloon Cricket Club Centenary Cup (2,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday as they test their credentials going toward longer black type features next month, but the year-older Prawn Baba can upstage them.
With the Queen Mother Memorial Cup and Champions & Chater Cup coming up over 2,400m, this is the chance to see which of the classic types will look for a Group win there and the past three runnings of this race have been won by four-year-olds coming out of the Derby.
In 2015, Thunder Fantasy got a great ride from Brett Prebble to steal the race coming off a Derby eighth, the following year Derby runner-up Victory Magic took it out and last year Beauty Generation and Eagle Way, third and sixth in the Derby, ran a hard-fought quinella.
The beaten favourites in the race have also come out of the Derby in two of those years but the classic crop demands plenty of respect, collectively, going back to a Class Two against the general population.
The John Size-trained Prawn Baba (Olivier Doleuze) was coming out of last year’s Derby too when he failed in this race 12 months ago but he has run well at the distance in his other attempt and has better than a knockout chance of taming the four-year-olds this year.
Prawn Baba has only won two races in Hong Kong but has been very consistent this season and his latest effort at Happy Valley was one of his best.
In a fast-run Happy Valley Vase, Prawn Baba didn’t get the easiest run and was posted wide for much of the 1,800m, yet he was still sticking on strongly at the finish in fifth.
He drops a grade and gate one should enable Doleuze to give him the run of the race following the pace with a comfortable handicap and Doleuze’s record for Size this campaign is eight wins from 44 rides, so they are pairing up well together.
The weight might be where Prawn Baba could have an edge on the likes of Exultant (Prebble) and Ruthven (Tommy Berry) at the top of the handicaps, and there are also some dangers lower down in the field.
One of interest is Consort (Joao Moreira), who looked most unlucky in Class Three last start and now drops almost 20 pounds in the weights, and Exultant’s stablemate Savvy Six (Alberto Sanna) is also a blowout possibility. He is a proper stayer judged by his German form, carries a light weight here and has only had three local runs so he is still on the rise. Ruthven’s stablemate Grand Chancellor (Matthew Poon Ming-fai) is another hope with only 108 pounds to carry.