The two favourites duked it out in the BMW Hong Kong Derby and things went largely to plan on the undercard as well, with superstar trio John Size, Joao Moreira and Zac Purton dominating with trebles at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The longest-priced winner for the day was $7.35 chance Eternal Bloom and those at the top of their respective premiership battles pulled further away from their rivals, with Size leading Frankie Lor Fu-chuen by six winners after the victories of Country Boy, Running Glory and Blaze Warrior.
Progressive four-year-old Running Glory was sent out at $2.1 in the Class Three Designs On Rome Handicap (1,600m) and he didn’t disappoint under Moreira, ringing up his third win at start six.
Blaze Warrior was ultra-impressive in winning the Class Two Rapper Dragon Handicap (1,200m) and Size is confident the galloper has found his sweet spot after he stretched him to 1,600m for January’s Classic Mile, in which he finished ninth.
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“It was a good win, he repeated his last start. He got back in the field and came home late in a fast-run race and he looks like he’s found what he wants to do. He’ll run again in a Class Two, we’ll wait a while for that,” the veteran trainer said.
Size moved to 59 winners for the campaign as he motors towards a record 12th trainers’ title – he currently shares the mantle for the most Hong Kong premierships with George Moore.
“I’m happy the horses are winning, they’ve all run their races so I can’t ask for any more than that,” he said.
Moreira completed his hat-trick aboard Blaze Warrior after the earlier victories of Toycoon and Running Glory and he was happy to see the galloper go one better than his last-start second.
Three for Joao Moreira! 🔥 Blaze Warrior unleashes under the Brazilian for a stylish win in the Sha Tin nightcap. #4YOSeries #HKracing pic.twitter.com/Iilz6aioSe— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 20, 2022
“He’s indicated that he’s got class, his last start was fantastic and today he didn’t miss,” he said.
Moreira moved to 88 winners for the campaign, remaining five victories adrift of his rival Purton after the Australian took out three of the first five races.
Despite his quick-fire treble, Purton departed Sha Tin frustrated after having to settle for second aboard California Spangle in the Derby.
“My day started all right but didn’t finish very well,” Purton said.
Big win! Joao Moreira caps a double as Running Glory bounces back to winning form. #4YOSeries #HKracing pic.twitter.com/ltodsSrjyW— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 20, 2022
Purton opened his account aboard Run Run Cool in the Class Four Super Satin Handicap (1,000m), with the $5 second elect storming to a four-and-three-quarter-length victory that surprised even his trainer Lor.
“I did not think he would win by almost five lengths,” Lor said. “Zac said he really liked the ground today, so that might be a factor.”
Purton then unleashed Country Boy down the outside from near the back of the field to win the Class Four Fay Fay Handicap (1,400m), before ringing up his treble aboard the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Rise Brethren.
Shum was successful in the Derby with Romantic Warrior and there was a time when he also harboured Classic Series aspirations with Rise Brethren.
Danny Shum 1-2! Rise Brethren overhauls Copartner Elites thanks to a superb drive from @zpurton who seals a three-timer. 🔥 #4YOSeries #HKracing pic.twitter.com/RhVLcbrERz— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 20, 2022
While those hopes didn’t amount to anything, the colt produced a performance in the Class Three Akeed Mofeed Handicap (2,000m) that suggested he could have a bright future in Hong Kong.
After hugging the rail in midfield in the run, Purton began to work his way off the fence as the field cornered for home before spearing his mount down the middle of the track, where a number of winners came from on the day.
Karis Teetan was the other jockey with multiple winners, adding the victory of impressive Tony Cruz-trained debutant Buzzinga to his Derby success aboard Romantic Warrior.
Yiu strikes early
His Derby duo failed to fire at massive prices but Ricky Yiu Poon-fai filled his boots early on Sunday’s card, snaring two of the first three races.
Before Mr Ascendency finished 12th at $207 and S J Tourbillon was last after being sent out at $93 in the Derby, Yiu took out the Class Four Ping Hai Star Handicap (1,200m) with Eternal Bloom and the Class Four Helene Mascot Handicap (1,600m) with Toycoon.
Eternal Bloom gave Yiu reason to be excited with a victory under Vincent Ho Chak-yiu in his second start after running sixth at Happy Valley on debut.
We're off and racing on Derby Day! Eternal Bloom gets off the mark at his second start for @Vincenthocy and Ricky Yiu. 🔥 #4YOSeries #HKracing pic.twitter.com/cLEnP5OBer— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 20, 2022
“He’s a nice horse in the making, he’s still maturing but I like him,” Yiu said.
Ho positioned Eternal Bloom in the box-seat and the son of Turn Me Loose was too strong for the Size-trained debutant Erimo in the straight, delivering Ho a welcome victory – his first since February 6.
Toycoon’s win was his first at start 26 but Yiu wasn’t surprised to see him finally get the chocolates.
“Toycoon has been consistent but unlucky. That was his 26th start but this was the right race for him. He’s a genuine horse,” the veteran trainer said.