Silver Express might have captured Sunday’s Chevalier Cup (1,600m) but the story of the Class One was stablemate Excellent Proposal, who was a tragedy beaten and showed he won’t just be making up the numbers in next month’s Hong Kong Mile.
Everything went perfectly for Silver Express – the grey getting a peach of a ride from Vagner Borges, who took full advantage of barrier one to sit in the box seat before working off the heels of early leader Voyage Warrior at the top of the straight and making the most of his light weight (114 pounds) to come away for an easy win at $5.50.
It was the opposite for Excellent Proposal, the $2.20 favourite, who followed Silver Express in transit but had his chances scuppered when he copped interference between the 400m and 300m as jockey Joao Moreira tried to force his way between Buddies and Kings Shield.
Whatever sliver of space was there – you’re optimistic calling it a gap – closed quickly, stopping Excellent Proposal in his tracks and robbing him of his momentum.
Despite the inconvenience, the reigning Classic Mile champion picked himself up and got going again, rattling home to finish second, a length and a quarter behind the winner.
It was a run with plenty of merit and Moreira was left to rue Excellent Proposal’s misfortune.
“A bit disappointing because at the top of the straight I was calling for a run and I end up getting checked but the horse’s performance itself was outstanding because, even having to go back, he dashes home to run a very good second, so I was happy with that,” the Brazilian said.
With the Magic Man committed to Sky Darci, Blake Shinn will reunite with Excellent Proposal in the Mile after partnering him throughout the Classic Series.
John Size trained the first two horses over the line, as well as Lucky Express, who loomed as the winner halfway down the straight but peaked on his run to finish sixth, beaten two lengths.
Despite that, the 11-time champion trainer suggested Lucky Express would also press on to the Mile – Antoine Hamelin is booked to ride – while confirming that Silver Express would not be a late entry for one of the features on December 12.
“There’s nothing yet [to suggest I won’t push on] but tomorrow is another day and I can have a look and see if there’s anything there,” said Size, who also revealed that Ryan Moore will jump aboard Hot King Prawn in the Hong Kong Sprint.
“At first watch it looked like Excellent Proposal was unlucky and then I’ll see how [Lucky Express] is.
“[Silver Express] hasn’t got the handicap for it really and I’m not too concerned about that, I can find another race for him.”
Silver Express’ win was another important one for Borges, who is still trying to establish a strong foothold in Hong Kong.
The Chevalier Cup is his first Class One success in the jurisdiction and his second biggest win overall after a knockout victory with $147 shot Amazing Star in April’s Group Two Sprint Cup.
Borges continues to build a strong rapport with Size, four of his six wins this season coming for the Australian Hall of Fame handler.
“It’s very important to have this win. I’m very happy with the win, with the horse. I’m thankful for Mr Size for his support, he’s a pleasure to ride for. He’s a legendary trainer in Hong Kong,” Borges said.
“I’m grateful to be in Hong Kong and I feel very fortunate to win a race such as this. The horse ran very well.”
The other runner heading towards the Hong Kong International Races is Butterfield and he also performed well, hitting the line nicely to finish a nose behind Excellent Proposal in third.
Trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing admits the step up from 1,600m to the 2,400m of the Hong Kong Vase will be a challenge but he’s performed well over the trip before, winning the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup in May.
“I would’ve liked to have run him over 2,000m but we had got no choice [as this was the race that fit in with his programme],” Shum said. “He ran very well. Hopefully he can run well on international day. Damian Lane will ride.”