Last year’s Hong Kong Derby winner Rapper Dragon was denied the chance to show how good he could be, but those who finished behind him in the 2017 four-year-old series can continue to cement his legacy in Sunday’s two Group Three features at Sha Tin.
Rapper Dragon’s tragic demise two starts after capping a clean sweep of the four-year-old series with an emphatic Derby triumph left a void, but his age group have stepped up in 2017-18.
Derby placegetters Pakistan Star and Beauty Generation are the two leading contenders for Horse of the Year after winning five of Hong Kong’s 12 Group Ones between them, while fourth-placed Seasons Bloom also won at the top level.
In fact 12 of the 14 horses from the 2017 Derby have won at least one race since, including Group Three wins by Eagle Way and Booming Delight.
On Sunday, the Tony Cruz-trained Gold Mount (Alberto Sanna), as well as John Size’s duo of Dinozzo (Sam Clipperton) and Prawn Baba (Chad Schofield), get the chance to add their names to the list of black-type winners from the 2017 Derby in the Group Three Premier Plate (1,800m).
Gold Mount has climbed to a rating of 121 and will carry top weight of 133 pounds but he looks better suited to the track and distance than some of his rivals.
Dinozzo isn’t one of them though – he boasts a three from five record over 1,800m at Sha Tin and has been placed in 10 of 11 total starts at both tracks over the trip.
Even though Dinozzo might seem “stuck” on his mark, a case can be made for him at the weights when taking a line through his clash with Gold Mount in the Happy Valley Vase in March.
Dinozzo was beaten a length by Gold Mount, who benefited from a superb ride by Sanna, and meets his rival seven pounds better here.
That seemed to be a turning point for Gold Mount though and the import has since rattled off two placings at Group One level.
It hasn’t just been those in the 2017 Derby who have kicked on either, with a host of other five-year-olds have making their mark this term.
Leading the way is Time Warp, a horse that didn’t make it into the 2017 Derby field but has since won two Group Ones, and then there are the types deemed unsuitable for the Derby distance of 2,000m.
Size’s Mr Stunning and D B Pin both won Group Ones this term and, in total, horses eligible for last year’s Derby have won nine of the 12 Group Ones this season.
Cruz-trained pair Winner’s Way (Zac Purton) and California Whip (Karis Teetan) are two more sprinters that weren’t stretched to the Derby and they head into the Group Three Premier Cup (1,400m) as last start winners.
After unplaced runs behind Rapper Dragon in the 2017 Hong Kong Classic Cup, Cruz brought both horses back in trip and after some struggles they now seem to have found their groove.
Winner’s Way beat a similar field in the Group Three Sha Tin Vase over 1,200m last time out and now carries seven more pounds with 130 pounds on his back.
That is 10 more pounds than in last year’s Premier Plate, when Winner’s Way started 1.8 favourite but was gunned down by a rampant Thewizardofoz.
Thewizardofoz (Joao Moreira) returns with the same old question marks surrounding him; at his best he looks unbeatable, but too often the enigmatic talent has failed to show up on the big days.
California Whip looked at one time to be a star dirt sprinter in the making, but for most of this term seemed destined to remain stuck at the top of Class Two and without a real speciality.
Two wins from his past three, including a last start victory over the course and distance, have pushed him into Class One and a light weight over what might ultimately be his best distance gives him a chance here.