Meticulous form preparation by jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu and trainer Tony Cruz was enough to pull off a first-up boilover for their English import Ka Ying Star at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The gelding was given an easy time in front in the Class Two Lung Kong Handicap (1,600m) and kicked on to win comfortably on debut, marking him as a serious four-year-old series contender.
After seeing the lack of speed in the race on paper, Ho jumped into the overseas form records to see what the horse was capable of.
The formerly known Urban Aspect won three from four starts in the United Kingdom before making the trip to Hong Kong.
“There wasn’t really that much pace in the race, I watched some video of him in the UK and he usually led, the tempo is different here of course but he still showed some speed in the trials,” Ho said.
“After seeing that, I thought I would try and get him handy to the speed. I actually thought Charity Go would lead but I think he missed the kick a little bit, so that was one gone and Derek [Leung] sat next to me on Furore.”
With no one challenging him for the lead, Ka Ying Star ($29) was able to go on and win comfortably, with the first three in running retaining their positions at the finishing post.
Dictating soft fractions helped, but making a winning Class 2 debut in Hong Kong is seldom easy and Ka Ying Star - aka the very progressive Urban Aspect for Andrew Balding - takes a first step on the BMW Hong Kong Derby trail with a decisive R10 success under Vincent Ho #HKracing pic.twitter.com/rCc8akxDdV— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 6, 2019
After being sold from the UK by his previous owners for “an offer too good to refuse”, Ho is confident that his mount will be capable of stretching out to 2,000m as he searches for Hong Kong Derby glory.
“I have had a look at his sire and the dam, there is family around that has run over the distance, he also gives the feel of a horse that could travel further,” he said. “He is still very green, he’s a big baby.”
While trainer Cruz was a beneficiary of the slow speed with Ka Ying Star, it also ruined any winning chance for his other runner in the race, Helene Leadingstar.
“The tempo was slow and it was a sprint home, it wasn’t a true race really. The tempo was too slow for my other horse. It suited one horse, but not the other,” he said. “My instructions were just go to the front because he was a front-runner in England.”
The race featured a host of four-year-old series hopefuls as one of the last hit-outs before it kicks off later this month.
However, many punters will find it hard to line up the form of the four-year-olds because of the slow speed.
John Moore’s Easy Go Easy Win furthered his Derby credentials, running a strong second behind Ka Ying Star and beating home Furore, who had been heavily tipped.
The Australian import was earmarked for the race over a year ago and has been a consistent performer in Hong Kong since.
“Onto the Classic Mile now, he’ll get the points we need. He finished beside Furore, that’s not bad form if you go back to Furore’s form in Australia,” Moore said.
“He’ll go to the Classic Mile and then we’ll go 1,800m and then Derby. We’re happy with that run.”
The four-year-old series begins on January 27 with the Classic Mile.