The latest four-year-old to come out of the Hong Kong Derby puts his Group credentials on the line at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Senor Toba finished fourth behind Romantic Warrior, California Spangle and Money Catcher in the Derby and steps up in trip as he contests the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2,400m).
With the Derby form looking solid after California Spangle’s second to Golden Sixty in the Champions Mile and Romantic Warrior’s win in the QE II Cup last Sunday, Senor Toba’s trainer Caspar Fownes is expecting a big run.
“I’d be disappointed if we don’t win convincingly,” Fownes said. “He’s had a good prep and I didn’t bother to trial him as his fitness is really good. He’s had lovely bits of work, a good swimming routine and he’s a happy and healthy horse.
“I think we’ll see the real horse on the weekend. He ran enormous in the Derby and I think that could be one of the strongest Derbies in the last 20 years.
“The form has been franked already with the first two running second against Golden Sixty in the Group One Mile and the other one absolutely bolting up in the QE II Cup.
“Not many horses can do that and I think they are going to end up being in the top three or four in Hong Kong for the next two or three years.
“They are top-class horses and my guy ran home well against them over 2,000m. He ran on really strongly and the extra 400m looks perfect for him.”
Senor Toba will ‘get to 120 points no problem’: Fownes
Fownes tried Senor Toba in blinkers in the Derby but will switch to a visor on the eye-catching grey this weekend.
“I only put blinkers on to sharpen him up a bit because I know he’s a real stayer. He’s got a great pair of lungs on him but we’ll switch to a visor. He’s a very honest horse,” Fownes said.
Senor Toba may be Fownes’ star attraction at Sha Tin but he has plenty of classy types in action, with Galaxy Witness attempting to extend his unbeaten record to four in the Class Three Inch Arran Handicap (1,400m).
The three-year-old came from a long way back to salute last time on his first run over 1,400m and his trainer has high hopes for him, with plans for him to take on the best of his generation next year.
“He’s rated 74 and has had three starts and three wins,” Fownes said. “He’s very progressive and I’d be very confident in saying he’ll be a triple-figure horse for next season and he’ll certainly be one of the horses for the four-year-old series.”
Sha Tin hosts the first Griffin race of the season on Sunday and Fownes runs Lucky Banner, who has pleased the trainer since arriving in Hong Kong.
“He’s a little surprise package and Joao Moreira rides him,” Fownes said. “He arrived and he’s a very small horse but he’s done everything nicely. He eats well and he’s got something to offer. He’s quite a speedy horse and I’ll be expecting a nice run.
“He’s had one trial at Sha Tin and he trialled good but he had a wolf tooth that was just under the gum line, so he was reacting to that.
“We ended up slicing it and whipping it out and Joao rode him on Monday and said that he wasn’t feeling anything now and that he feels good. He’s a jump and run sort of horse.”