Hong Kong Racing News
Group 1 stars Beauty Only, Mr Stunning, Peniaphobia and Contentment will step out for the first time this term at Sunday’s (1 October) National Day race meeting at Sha Tin Racecourse.
Hong Kong’s 2017/18 Group race programme kicks off with twin features, the G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) and the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m).
Champion Miler Beauty Only is slated to carry top-weight in the latter as he steps out for the first time since running a game sixth in the G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) at Tokyo in June.
Tony Cruz’s charge warmed up for his season’s return with a smart effort under Zac Purton in a 1600m turf barrier trial on 19 September. The six-year-old settled last in the five-runner batch, as stablemate Giant Treasure set a solid tempo, and closed past runners in the stretch to cross the line in front.
“His trial was very good,” Cruz said. “The other horses in the trial weren’t top fit yet, but it was a good trial and that will have brought him on. After that, I think he’ll be close to his peak fitness, but it’s going to be tough when you look at the handicap. He’ll carry 133 pounds, so he’s giving away a lot of weight to most of the field.”
Despite that weighty impost, the trainer believes last year’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile winner will acquit himself well in his first competitive step towards defending that title on 10 December. The Holy Roman Emperor gelding was second to Joyful Trinity in last year’s Celebration Cup, carrying 132lb.
“We know how good he is and I still think he will run a big race – he can be in the first four or five,” Cruz said. “But the important thing is that he’s done well since he came back from Japan. He put on a whole lot of weight after that – he’s a good doer, he’s healthy, he has a good appetite and he’s a strongly-built horse.”
Contentment held Beauty Only’s late thrust to win the G1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin in May but ran below form when 10th in the Yasuda Kinen. John Size’s charge is also among the Celebration Cup’s 13 classy entries and is set to shoulder 132lb.
The chestnut, whose five course and distance wins include the 2016 G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup, was kept under a hold when he trialled over 1200m on a rain-affected dirt track last week.
“It’s hard to tell anything in that ground,” jockey Brett Prebble said. “We’re going in a little bit unsure in the sense that you can’t always get a decent feel on going like that, but he’s had the preparation John wants him to have and I’m happy with that. He used it as a fitness trial, which is basically what John always does.
“His 1400-metre form is very strong. He’s a very consistent, honest horse and he always runs his race, whether he’s a length and a half short or he’s winning.”
Pitching in against the proven G1 stars is the Danny Shum-trained five-year-old Seasons Bloom, the impressive winner of the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup (1200m) at the season opener.
Other rising stars in the field include the John Moore-trained Booming Delight, Beauty Generation and Eagle Way, and the Cruz-trained Winner’s Way and Time Warp.
Peniaphobia will represent Cruz in the G3 National Day Cup (1000m), with Purton set to form a new partnership with the 2015 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) hero. The six-year-old is set to carry 132lb, one pound less than the Size camp’s top-rated Mr Stunning, a close second in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) in May.
Cruz expects his speedy stalwart to improve after Sunday’s race, which has attracted 10 entries.
“Peniaphobia’s getting on and 1000 (metres) is too short for him nowadays,” he said. He’s gained a lot more weight this year, every year he’s getting heavier and that goes with age. We’ll see how he does this season.
“He’ll take a little more time to reach his peak, I think,” he added, “but he’ll be spot-on for the Hong Kong Sprint in December.”
Sunday’s exciting edition of the straight track dash also features the past two winners, the Moore-trained Not Listenin’tome (2015) and Amazing Kids (2016) from the Size stable, as well as another exciting Size-trained galloper, D B Pin.
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