Connections of the two biggest players walked away happy enough from Thursday morning’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) barrier draw, with Chris So Wai-yin’s quick number crunch giving him reason for optimism.
So’s Classic Cup winner Super Sunny Sing was handed gate nine, while hot favourite Beauty Eternal landed barrier seven for Sunday’s HK$24 million feature.
Rarely in Hong Kong racing is the barrier draw as crucial as over the Sha Tin 2,000m because of its short run to the first turn and since the beginning of the 2020-21 season, only gates two, four and five have produced a higher percentage of winners than gate nine over 10 furlongs on the A course.
“It’s OK, not too bad at all,” So said of gate nine. “On the A track, from draw nine there are a lot of winners.”
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
Since 2000, three Derby winners have jumped from gate nine – equal with gate 10 and behind only the four victors produced by barrier three – and So expects Super Sunny Sing to assume his customary position around midfield before hopefully being afforded the pace required to finish over the top of his rivals under Vincent Ho Chak-yiu.
“I need to study it, but at the moment I’m happy with the draw. I’m thinking midfield or just off midfield because we can see the horse always comes from behind,” So said.
“I honestly don’t know what sort of pace to expect, but normally in the major races the pace is a bit slow. That’s why we’ll let Vincent do his job – he’s the main guy come the race.”
Beauty Eternal has done his best work when travelling just off the speed and he has drawn immediately outside Keefy in five and Sword Point in six, both of whom are likely to race in the first half of the field.
He is a STAR! 💫 Beauty Eternal hardly breaks sweat under @zpurton to win his Class 2 debut with ease... @BMW Hong Kong Derby favourite!? | #4YOSeries pic.twitter.com/zzQ6zTHb4A— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 26, 2023
“I think it’s fine. Zac [Purton] has options from there and I’m sure he’ll have a better idea of what he wants to do according to who’s drawn around him, but I think seven is fine. It wouldn’t seem like it’s any great disadvantage,” trainer John Size said.
“It depends on the horse itself as to how important the gate is and then, of course, the running of the race determines the value of the draw. I think most races it’s nice to get a good gate where your horse can get a proper opportunity and show his worth.”
Among the other chances in the race, the Caspar Fownes-trained Galaxy Witness will look to capitalise on the Derby-friendly gate three, while Beauty Eternal’s stablemate, Tuchel, jumps from the inside alley under Ryan Moore.
“I’m not too concerned about him being on the rail because he’s got the pace to follow the leaders. He’s not going to be back in the field or midfield,” Size said of Tuchel.
Straight Arron's impressive as! 🔥— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 26, 2023
The Australian import keeps his @BMW Hong Kong Derby hopes alive under @blake_shinn for Caspar Fownes. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/aujOeoGEVk
“He’s coming along nicely. He looks to be going into the race in pretty good shape. He’s a little bit fitter than he was three weeks ago.”
Size’s third and final runner, Sweet Encounter, will jump from alongside Tuchel in barrier two, while last-start winner Straight Arron must overcome gate 10 under Blake Shinn.
Classic Mile victor Voyage Bubble will have to work his way across from gate 14 if he is to take up his expected lead role, while Flagship Warrior’s draw of 13 is his fourth double-figure barrier from as many Hong Kong starts.