Not a lot went right for Russian Emperor after his heartbreaking runner-up finish in the Hong Kong Derby last season but trainer Douglas Whyte is hopeful Sunday’s Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m) can be the starting point for bigger and better things.
A head second in the city’s most prestigious race gave way to some fitness concerns, a couple of sub-par performances and ultimately a gelding operation for the son of Galileo – no doubt a tricky decision for connections.
Russian Emperor was found to be lame after the Derby and when running sixth in May’s Group One Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m), jockey Alexis Badel was concerned by the horse’s action and he was found to be restricted in both front legs.
The four-year-old – who finished seventh in the 2020 Epsom Derby – looked comfortable in a trial on September 14 and Whyte is looking forward to kicking off a preparation that he hopes can lead to the Hong Kong International Races.
Sky Darci and Joao Moreira win the BMW Hong Kong Derby from the fast-finishing Russian Emperor! pic.twitter.com/a9DO6IzhxF— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) March 21, 2021
“You like to think internationals. You like to think big with a horse like him, but he’s got to step up. If he runs a creditable race, he’ll be in with a shout going towards bigger races this season,” the trainer said.
“We all know what he did in the Derby. He ran a fantastic race. He’s been gelded since, so we’re looking forward to the season.
“He’s changed. His temperament has certainly changed significantly in the yard. He was starting to get coltish and he was starting to get thick in his wind.”
Russian Emperor will have his work cut out over seven furlongs this weekend, where he will carry 115 pounds from gate nine.
Champions & Chater Cup (G1)— (@WorldRacing1) May 23, 2021
2400m , 12.000.000 HKD, for 4yo+
(4C Lookin At Lucky - Esterina, by Orpen)
J : K. Teetan
T :A. T. Millard
O : Yue Yun Hing
B : Agricola Taomita Ltd
“The weight is going to be beneficial, the distance is a query. He’s certainly going out to do his best but he hasn’t raced for a long time,” Whyte said.
“He needs to get back into competition, back into the racing mentality of things. It’s a good place to start him off.”
Jerry Chau Chun-lok takes the ride and Russian Emperor will tackle his Derby conqueror Sky Darci, as well as the likes of Southern Legend, Mighty Giant, Champion’s Way, Buddies and Tourbillon Diamond.
It will be only Jerry Chau Chun-lok’s third Group ride after one in Adelaide and his eighth aboard Playa Del Puente in June’s Group Three Premier Plate and it comes on a day he could well ride the final two winners required to complete his apprenticeship.
“Jerry is part of the team, he knows the horse. He’s going to be two pounds overweight but [Russian Emperor has] got a light enough weight and there’s nowhere to hide with his rating. He’s got to go out there and face the tough boys now,” Whyte said.
Chau also partners Universal Crown, Golden Bolt, Valiant Elegance, Falcon Turbo, Shining Red and Uncle Steve for his boss Whyte, while Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Diamond Brilliant and Tony Cruz’s California Rad round out his nine-strong book.