BMW Hong Kong Derby day has been on the radar for Thinkin’ Big since he was imported from Australia to contest the prestigious race, but the occasion has a different look to it than the owners had hoped.
The son of High Chaparral’s Derby hopes looked dashed when he suffered a suspensory injury in September but a strong recovery and a change of trainer from Frankie Lor Fu-chuen to Douglas Whyte had connections hopeful their dream might be realised.
The classy four-year-old trialled nicely last week to give life to a last-minute run to the Derby and Thinkin’ Big will race at Sha Tin on Sunday, however it will be in the Class Two Rapper Dragon Handicap (1,400m) rather than the final leg of the Classic Series over 2,000m.
Whyte said last week that he would do everything possible to “live up to the owner’s dream” of running in the Derby but eventually conceded the 10-furlong test came to soon.
“He’s ready to go to a 1,400m but he’s not ready to compete at the level of the Derby,” Whyte said. “He’s fit enough and working well enough to present himself on Derby day but certainly I wouldn’t have wanted to stretch him for his first run of the season at 2,000m.”
Thinkin’ Big, who will be ridden by Grant van Niekerk, will still have his work cut out for him despite settling for an easier target in what will be his first run since June last year, with impressive last-start winner Seattle Choice and the in-form Happy Fun lining up.
The Tony Cruz-trained Circuit Three is shooting for a fourth consecutive win – and fifth from his last six starts – while Whyte also has Uncle Steve in the race, who is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 13th last start and add to his record of two wins from nine appearances.
Thinkin’ Big and Uncle Steve are just two of nine runners for Whyte on a day that he made his own three times as a jockey, winning the Derby with Super Satin (2010), Fay Fay (2012) and Akeed Mofeed (2013).
General’s Delight returns to the track after suffering a heart irregularity after his Hong Kong debut in November, where he finished 11th, and Whyte is hoping the impressive four-year-old can begin to build some momentum.
“It’s been a long, tedious time. It’s been patience personified really, but it’s good to see him come out of that,” Whyte said.
“He’s had three good trials leading into this race and he’s as forward as one would want going into a run after a mishap like that.”
After two wins in Queensland and a second at Listed level at Randwick before being sold to Hong Kong, General’s Delight impressed at the trials before nothing went right in his maiden Sha Tin appearance.
The gelding has again trialled nicely ahead of the Class Three Collection Handicap (1,400m) and will be ridden by Joao Moreira, with the Brazilian having barrier one at his disposal as he attempts to negotiate a race boasting in-form runners Ever Laugh, Top Score, Guy Dragon and All In Mind.
Another interesting Whyte runner is More Than A Horse, a four-year-old son of More Than Ready who looks to be edging closer to a win ahead of the Class Three Akeed Mofeed Handicap (2,000m).
After winning twice over 1,400m in Australia, More Than A Horse has improved as he has stepped further out in trip across his five Hong Kong starts, culminating in a second over 2,200m at Happy Valley late last month.
Moreira also rides More Than A Horse, while Whyte also saddles up Evan Almighty, Happy Ichiban, debutant Galactic, Party Genius and The Weatherman on Sunday afternoon.
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