There are plenty of runners at the crossroads in Sunday’s Class Two Tourmaline Handicap (1,600m) but Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Coby Boy is only heading in one direction – up.
Horses can’t fake it once they get to Class Two – they all have ability – and there is an interesting mix assembled for this contest, including two coming out of the four-year-old series, another on his way to next year’s Hong Kong Derby, a couple of promising types, some hardened veterans as well as one making his local debut. Who will be up to the challenge and who will slide down the ratings to an easier grade?
Coby Boy has had just four runs in Hong Kong, winning twice – on debut in July at 97-1 and then last start over 1,400m at his first time in Class Two. In between he suffered a serious cannon bone injury which saw him go eight months between runs.
Despite the setback, he has been right at the pointy end in his three starts this campaign, culminating with his victory on April 21 and he looks capable of going on with it.
“This horse has had a lot of leg problems in the past but now he is stronger and he seems to be over them so maybe there is some room for improvement,” Yung said after the victory. “This was his first start in Class Two so to win so quickly is a good indication.”
The five-year-old only goes up six points in the ratings and looked good when untested finishing second in a barrier trial last week.
He showed in Australia he can handle the step up to the mile and after so many interruptions, he should continue to get better with more experience and fitness.
Coby Boy has drawn well in barrier five and Umberto Rispoli should ensure he gets a lovely run in transit, just behind the likely leader Sergeant Titanium.
The Caspar Fownes-trained Rise High is another on the way up and he looked terrific winning at this course and distance last start.
The trainer set him for that contest and it paid off, and while he has barrier three and the in-form Zac Purton aboard, it is offset by an eight-point rise in the ratings.
Fownes thinks Rise High will be at his best next season over 2,000m, but that doesn’t stop him being competitive here.
The most intriguing runner is Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Morethanlucky, who hasn’t been seen since finishing eighth in this year’s Classic Cup.
After starting the season on a rating of 53, the gelding came from the clouds – winning four of his first five races (he was second in the other) – to earn a spot in the Classic Mile, where he finished third.
The time off looks to have suited him after an impressive showing in a trial earlier this month but against the older horses in this grade, this is his biggest test to date.
Doctor Geoff, from the Tony Cruz stable, also comes through the four-year-old series, finishing fourth in the Derby and then coming third to Rise High last start and now meeting him 13 pounds better at the weights with the benefit of Jack Wong Ho-nam’s claim.
Joao Moreira takes the ride on John Moore’s Easy Go Easy Win and since winning at his Hong Kong debut in December, has been around the mark without winning. His target next season will be the Derby.
Hardened veterans like Citron Spirit, Sergeant Titanium and Star Majestic have all won in Class Two this season and can be in the finish, while New Zealand stayer Mongolian Legend steps out in Hong Kong for the first time, but will probably need further to show his best.
There were 12 runners when declarations were taken on Thursday, but Rocketeer was withdrawn just a few hours later having been transferred out of Moore’s stable, despite having galloped in the morning.
Rocketeer finished down the track in the Derby and has been entered for the Group One Champions & Chater Cup on May 27, but there would have to be a lot of doubt over him taking his place in the HK$10 million feature having not had a run since March.