Vincent Ho Chak-yiu and Hugh Bowman hold contrasting views about the probability of Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) hopeful Viva Chaleur winning Sunday’s Class Two Rutland Handicap (1,800m) at Sha Tin, the Derby lead-up race nicknamed the Collection Stakes.
In 2009, John Moore persuaded Jockey Club officials to expand the Class Two contest’s ratings band so Collection, his Royal Ascot-winning import who was rated 101 after placing second over 1,400m on his Hong Kong debut, would be able to run in the 1,800m event a fortnight out from the Derby. Collection started, won by four and a quarter lengths and subsequently justified $1.4 Derby favouritism.
In 2023, the Caspar Fownes-trained Viva Chaleur is the highest rated of the two four-year-old Rutland Handicap runners – his mark is 83, seven points higher than that of his stablemate, Perfect Team – as the Group One Prix Morny (1,200m) runner-up tries to consolidate his spot in the Derby on March 19.
Going into Sunday’s 10-race programme at Sha Tin, Viva Chaleur is in a three-horse tie for 12th place in the ranking of Derby entrants based on their ratings, with the likes of Perfect Team, Alacrity and Beauty Inspire able to leapfrog him if they perform well in their respective assignments.
Enormous win! 🤯 First-up this season, Gorytus soars from the tail of the field to take the finale for @JerryChau15 and Danny Shum. #HappyWednesday | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/pv0o0La6bO— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 8, 2023
Ho reunites with Viva Chaleur, whom he rode in his Hong Kong bow over 1,200m at Sha Tin on November 20 before Christophe Lemaire (once) and Bowman (three times) were aboard the colt for his next four runs.
“I think he has a massive chance,” Ho said of Viva Chaleur’s Rutland Handicap prospects. “I’ll ride him quiet because he’s been over-racing sometimes. The Norton bit should help him. We’ve used it a few times on him, and it’s definitely helped.
“The owner paid a lot for this horse and we’re doing our best to get him into the Derby.”
Bowman, however, does not share Ho’s confidence in Viva Chaleur after partnering the son of Wootton Bassett to finish fourth in a restricted Class Three, seventh in a Class Three and 12th in the Classic Mile, albeit from a series of wide gates.
Voyage Bubble goes all the way! 🔥 @jamieleekah07 gets the best out of the Deep Field gelding to win the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile. #4YOSeries | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/3zlVpp94Zv— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 29, 2023
“I’d rather be on the one I’m on,” said Bowman, who sticks with John Size’s last-start winner, Running Glory, as he drops back from 2,000m to 1,800m.
“I don’t know about Viva Chaleur at that distance. I suppose they might have the Derby at the back of their minds. He was good [over 1,650m] at Happy Valley the other day, but I think Viva Chaleur is the least of my worries in this weekend’s race.”
Drawn adjacent to Viva Chaleur (gate two) in the Sha Tin barriers, Running Glory (three) impressed Bowman with his fighting spirit when he carried 135 pounds to win a Class Two over 2,000m two weeks ago.
“He’s not a big horse, but what he lacks in size, he certainly makes up in courage,” Bowman said.
Eyes on the pink and purple silks at the rear... 🤯— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 19, 2023
Running Glory lets rip under a superb @HugeBowman ride to land the Class 2 TVB Cup for John Size. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/LL47WDC7ld
“He’s a very consistent horse. He’s got an outstanding record. He’s got a great attitude. You can put him wherever you need to. He’s quite versatile from a tactical point of view.
“He gets into a really good rhythm and saves himself for the final effort, which is most important.
“Despite being at the top of the handicap, he looks well placed again. If he’s close enough to fight out the finish, he’ll get his nose in front.”
Purton and Size drive each other’s record bids with never-before-seen numbers
On Friday, the Jockey Club granted permission for overseas jockeys Jamie Kah and James McDonald to ride Fownes-trained Galaxy Witness and Tony Cruz-prepared Beautyverse, respectively, in the Derby.
Also, the Jockey Club licensed Kah to accept race rides for the Happy Valley meeting on March 22.