He staked his claim as one of the stars of Hong Kong racing last season and trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing is hopeful Seasons Bloom has plenty more to give.
The six-year-old is one of a number of big guns resuming at Monday’s National Day meeting at Sha Tin and he enters the Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m) in good order.
After finishing second in the same race last year, Seasons Bloom went on to win the Group One Stewards’ Cup in January and this preparation Shum has his sights set on the Longines Hong Kong Mile on international day in December.
“He cannot improve, only hold his condition. Hopefully, he can back up his Group One success this season,” Shum said.
Seasons Bloom was second-up when finishing behind Horse of the Year Beauty Generation 12 months ago, but did salute when first-up on last season’s opening day, giving Shum some confidence ahead of Monday’s race despite his horse carrying equal top weight.
“He’s a good-sized horse but to carry 133 pounds is not easy. He’s going OK but the only problem is he’s carrying top weight, which makes it hard,” Shum said.
Seasons Bloom will again face Beauty Generation, as well as Derby winner Ping Hai Star and John Size’s Nothingilikemore.
Chad Schofield takes the ride in the absence of Joao Moreira – the Brazilian rode Seasons Bloom in all sevens starts last term – and can’t wait to jump aboard.
“It’s a good pick-up for me. Obviously, he’s one of the best milers in Hong Kong so I’m very happy to be on him,” Schofield said. “I thought his recent trials have been very strong and he’s working well, so I think he’s going to run a good race.
“He deserves top weight because he’s one of the best horses in the race. Handicaps are always hard at the start of the season and they tend to favour the lighter weights, but I’m really happy to be on him anyway.”
The horse that finished second to Seasons Bloom in the Stewards’ Cup – Fifty Fifty – is also in Monday’s race and in-form South African jockey Grant van Niekerk says the six-year-old is stepping out with the sole goal of winning.
“No, we win,” Van Niekerk said when asked if the Celebration Cup was merely a stepping stone to bigger things. “I’m very glad to have a ride in the race and obviously it’s a horse that has a big chance as well.”
Fifty Fifty burst onto the scene last season with four wins and a further three placings, rising from Class Three to within half a length of Group One glory.
The Peter Ho Leung-trained gelding looks primed to go one better this term and impressed Van Niekerk when beating home a strong field, including Beauty Generation and Seasons Bloom, to win a trial last week.
“His trial the other day was really good so I’m looking forward to riding him. He gave me a Group One feel,” said Van Niekerk, who replaces Karis Teetan on Fifty Fifty after the Mauritian rode the horse in its first nine starts.