Sanity has prevailed with European import Flaming Rabbit after connections resisted the lure of next weekend’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) with a galloper who hasn’t raced since running over a mile in France last September.
The absence of the Douglas Whyte-trained Flaming Rabbit from the city’s most prestigious race means the David Hayes-trained Bon’s A Pearla sneaks into the final field, which was confirmed at Sha Tin on Thursday morning.
There were no surprises among the 14 gallopers afforded a start in a field headlined by the John Size-trained Beauty Eternal, who is $2.25 in overseas fixed-odds markets, and last month’s Classic Cup winner Super Sunny Sing, who is second favourite.
Classic Cup 13th placegetter Keefy is the highest-rated Derby runner on 99, while January’s Classic Mile winner Voyage Bubble will attempt the 2,000m after fading into sixth in the Classic Cup.
What a day for @Vincenthocy!? 🙌 The Gold Cup and Classic Cup go home with the 32-year-old as Super Sunny Sing sweeps to victory for Chris So. #4YOSeries | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/UOW29aIYNi— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 26, 2023
The top seven from the Classic Cup are all in the Derby field, with Sword Point, Galaxy Witness, Tuchel, Flagship Warrior and Bon’s A Pearla joining Super Sunny Sing and Voyage Bubble.
Beautyverse, Sweet Encounter and Encountered push on to the city’s most prestigious race despite ordinary Classic Cup efforts, while Atullibigeal and Straight Arron join Beauty Eternal in entering the Classic Series for the first time ahead of the HK$24 million finale.
A raft of superstar jockeys will jet in for the March 19 showpiece, with James McDonald sticking with Beautyverse and Blake Shinn (Straight Arron), Ryan Moore (Tuchel) and Jamie Kah (Galaxy Witness) all picking up new four-year-old series rides.
The reserves for the Derby are Sinba, La City Blanche, Woodfire Bro and Gallant Waking.
Duke off to Dubai
Pierre Ng Pang-chi will have his first overseas runner little more than six months into his training career, with Duke Wai receiving an invite to the Dubai World Cup meeting later this month.
While Caspar Fownes took Sky Field out of the Group One Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) earlier in the week, Hong Kong’s representation in the Meydan dash will remain at two, with Duke Wai joining the John Size-trained Sight Success in the field.
“He’s got the invitation and pretty much everything is set. It’s very exciting after just seven months. It’s very special. It’s like a dream,” Ng said, adding he thinks the Meydan straight 1,200m will “definitely” suit his galloper.
Tough as nails! 💪 Duke Wai lifts under @JerryChau15 to win the Class 1 Devon Handicap for Pierre Ng. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/nJ9GdmdvoP— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 5, 2023
Ng confirmed Jerry Chau Chun-lok will travel to Dubai to ride Duke Wai after winning aboard the speedster last weekend.
Group One Dubai Sheema Classic (2,410m) runners Russian Emperor and Senor Toba round out Hong Kong’s Meydan assault after Danny Shum Chap-shing confirmed Tourbillon Diamond will not tackle the Group One Dubai Turf (1,800m) after failing to impress his trainer.
“Last start, he was a bit disappointing [when sixth in the Group One Gold Cup], and we gave him a gallop and a trial. He won the trial, but he only beat 40-rated horses. He’s not at his top, so I don’t think he would’ve run well in Dubai,” Shum said, confirming his charge will next be seen in the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy (1,600m) on April 9 before tackling the Group One QE II Cup (2,000m) on Champions Day three weeks later.
McDonald to reunite with Warrior
Tourbillon Diamond will meet superstar stablemate Romantic Warrior in the QE II Cup, with Shum revealing it will be James McDonald who replaces Karis Teetan aboard the reigning Derby champion.
Owner Peter Lau Pak-fai decided a jockey change was in order following Romantic Warrior’s consecutive seconds behind two-time Horse of the Year Golden Sixty, and while Zac Purton and Hugh Bowman were also in the mix, McDonald has committed to the ride.
McDonald is two from two aboard Romantic Warrior, winning the Group Two Jockey Club Cup (2,000m) and Group One Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) with the five-year-old while Teetan was sidelined with a thyroid condition earlier this season.