Joao Moreira says Sky Darci has all the makings of a leading four-year-old series contender as he takes his biggest step yet at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The Caspar Fownes-trained galloper jumps from Class Three to Class One in the Chevalier Cup (1,600m), where he gets in with a featherweight (116 pounds) compared to the burden he comfortably carried to victory last time out (133 pounds).
Sky Darci has been a sensation in winning two-from-two at Happy Valley this season, putting in an eye-catching performance last start when he dashed clear to win by almost three lengths eased down.
It is that devastating turn of foot that gives Moreira confidence Sky Darci will make himself right at home among the top end of Hong Kong’s gallopers.
“I think he is going to put in a very, very big race,” the Brazilian said. “It is a big jump going from Class Three to Class One, but the way he let down at Happy Valley gave me all the indications he will be going up quite high in the grades.
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“What makes me so confident about it is the way in which he did it, where he placed himself, how he travelled and how finished off the race.”
Lightweight runners have made the Chevalier Cup their own in recent years with eight of the last 12 winners carrying 120 pounds or less, putting Sky Darci right in the sweet spot.
Fownes and Moreira have also been a lethal combination this season, combining for 13 victories in 45 starts, striking at 29 per cent.
After winning three of the past seven Classic Miles, Moreira knows the kind of horse it takes to prevail in the HK$12 million race and he believes Sky Darci is heading in the right direction.
“When I came back after that race I said to Caspar straight away ‘you might have a good horse in him’,” he said.
“Of course, at this stage we are just guessing, I was trying to express how happy I was.
“I may be wrong, we are going to face some good horses and we have to respect them, but at the same time, the feeling that this guy has given me, I am quite confident that he will do well.
“He gives me the feeling that he could be one of those that heads to the Classic Mile and the Classic Series in general and surprises a few there.”
Sky Darci runs into the John Size-trained Lucky Express in this contest, another who is potentially on a similar Classic Mile path.
The Australian import has only won once in Hong Kong but hit the line nicely to finished second to Buddies in the Class One Panasonic Cup (1,400m) last start.
Moreira’s compatriot Vagner Borges will be in the saddle on Sunday with Karis Teetan suspended as the son of Toronado races over a mile for the first time.