Even Frankie Lor Fu-chuen seems somewhat resigned to the fact Sunday’s Group One Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m) shapes as a battle for second behind Exultant, but he is at least confident Furore will be at his best.
The reigning Derby champion faded to finish last in the Stewards’ Cup (1,600m) at his most recent run but Lor assured punters they can disregard that effort.
“Last start when he finished last, before the race he got a mild temperature so I think that was the problem,” Lor said of Furore, who looked a treat when pulling away to win a trial over 1,200m on the all-weather track last week.
“After his last run I gave him one trial and he trialled well, I think he’s in good form now.”
Furore will welcome the return to the distance of his Derby triumph, with his best two performances this season also coming at 10 furlongs.
He finished a length and a quarter off Exultant in November’s Group Two Jockey Club Cup before producing a solid fourth in the Group One Hong Kong Cup on international day.
The three horses he finished behind in that race – Caspar Fownes’ injured star Rise High and raiders Win Bright and Magic Wand – are absent this weekend.
“It’s hard to say if he can beat Exultant but his form is much better than his last start so he’ll run better,” Lor said.
Another big name who won’t be at Sha Tin on Sunday is champion Australian jockey Hugh Bowman, who has ridden Furore in seven of his 11 Hong Kong starts and both of his wins.
Jamie Spencer takes the ride in Bowman’s absence, returning to Hong Kong from the United Kingdom less than three weeks after riding Macau raider Sacred Capital in the Group Three Centenary Vase.
“We had no choice because Hugh was busy so I needed to find another jockey,” Lor said. “Jamie hasn’t ridden him before so that’s a bit of an unknown, but the owners know him so it’s not a problem.”
While Lor admitted he was expecting Furore to reach greater heights than he has this season, it is his other Gold Cup runner – Derby fourth placegetter Dark Dream – that has frustrated him most.
“This horse has been quite a disappointment. Last season he was still good [after the Derby] but now he is one-paced and maybe 2,400m is better for him,” Lor said, adding that it’s on race day in particular that he doesn’t deliver.
“In trackwork he works really well. I put Grant [van Niekerk] on for a gallop on Tuesday and he said he performed well.”
Van Niekerk partners Dark Dream for the first time on Sunday and the pair jumps from gate six, with Furore drawing stall 10 of 11.
Zac Purton has been left to negotiate gate nine aboard the Tony Cruz-trained Exultant, while notorious pacesetter Time Warp has drawn inside his stablemate in barrier eight.
Time Warp will be partnered by Joao Moreira for the first time in over two years.