Cordyceps knocked plenty of people out of the first leg of the Triple Trio, but his effort to finish third makes him a horse to follow.
After three largely unimpressive trials, there wasn’t a lot of confidence about Francis Lui Kin-wai’s three-year-old ahead of his debut – as his 95-1 price suggested – but he was a different horse on race day.
Jumping from barrier nine in the Class Four HKU Foundation and HKU Faculty of Medicine Handicap (1,200m), jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun was unable to find cover midfield and was left trapped three-wide without cover.
It got even worse on the turn when Cordyceps was pushed four-deep by Golden Sleep and he was the widest runner entering the straight.
Despite having covered a mountain of extra ground, the gelding still finished off strong and while he was never catching the winner Mighty Maverick, he was right there in the photo for second with Super Euro Star.
Cordyceps’ ability to run his last 400m in 22.52 seconds – the second fastest of the race behind the winner – after such a difficult run, shows he is a horse with upside.
He will also take plenty of improvement in terms of fitness and experience with his breeding – by Stratum out of an Encounter mare – suggests he will be at his best over 1,400m.
If Cordyceps can draw a gate, he should be very hard to beat next time out.
The other debutant to catch the eye at Sha Tin was the Michael Freedman-trained Bellagio in the Class Four HKU Faculties of Dentistry and Education Handicap (1,200m).
In contrast to Cordyceps, Bellagio had shown some ability in his two trials – winning the most recent one at Happy Valley.
Jumping from gate two, Zac Purton settled the three-year-old midfield on the rail and he copped a little check before entering the turn but it was in the home straight where he really found trouble.
Bellagio kept hanging in and was reluctant to take the narrow gap between Blitzing and Looking Good, meaning he couldn’t be fully tested until late.
When he did find clear running, the gelding hit the line hard to dead-heat for third with Destin while the winner Goodluck Goodluck had kicked away.
With a bit more luck Bellagio should have finished a clear second and he can make amends soon.