Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup poses Seasons Bloom a question

Seasons Bloom at the Steward's Cup
Seasons Bloom gets the better of Fifty Fifty to win the G1 Stewards’ Cup.

Joao Moreira is looking to last year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) form for a degree of assurance that Seasons Bloom will see out the final strides of Sunday’s (25 February) HK$10 million Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m).

The champion jockey was in the saddle when the classy galloper joined Hong Kong’s Group 1-winning cadre last month. A smart burst of acceleration down the Sha Tin straight bagged the Stewards’ Cup (1600m) that afternoon, a second mile feature success for Danny Shum’s charge this term to augment a first-up score over 1200m. Seasons Bloom’s latest win confirmed his abilities as a top level miler, but on Sunday the Captain Sonador gelding must prove that he has the versatility to last home over a mile and a quarter.

“Seasons Bloom has been tested over that distance before in last year’s Derby and he was beaten by two very good horses – one was Pakistan Star and the other was Rapper Dragon. He’s got form,” Moreira pointed out.

Rapper Dragon won that Four-Year-Old classic for Moreira en route to claiming Horse of the Year honours; runner-up Pakistan Star filled the same spot behind Japan’s Neorealism in the Group 1 AP QEII Cup (2000m); and even third-placed Beauty Generation won this season’s Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile. Seasons Bloom was a meritorious fourth.

But that effort, it could be argued, represented a regression from the gelding’s performances in the two preceding legs of the 2017 Four-Year-Old Classic Series – second in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and third in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m). Moreira, though, is pleased to see the Australian import being given an opportunity to try the trip for a second time.

“I’m glad that Danny’s giving him another chance over the distance and then after this run we’re going to be sure if he handles it or not. At this stage there’s a question mark up in the air,” he said.

“The horse himself seems fine, he’s very relaxed during his races and that’s what you want from a horse going over a longer distance. I’m convinced he’s going to be right there with them.”

Seasons Bloom will face last year’s winner Werther, as well as December’s Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) hero Time Warp. And one of his Derby superiors, Pakistan Star, will also be in the mix.

“I know it’s a very tough race but I’m quite happy to have him as my ride because he’s been very good to me,” Moreira said. “He’s a very genuine horse – he tries hard and gives his heart when he’s out there.”

Under different circumstances, Moreira might have been aboard Pakistan Star on Sunday. The Brazilian was in the saddle for the erstwhile errant gelding’s two recent barrier trials, in which the Shamardal five-year-old performed without flaw to come off the “naughty list” and resume competition for the first time since last season.

“I was already booked for Seasons Bloom for this race and I must keep my word,” Moreira said.

“Pakistan Star seems one of the best stayers here – he’s one of the best 2000-metre horses in town at the moment. He might not be at his best because he hasn’t raced for quite some time but when he gets to his best, fitness-wise, I think he’s going to be very hard to beat in these races in the future.”

The Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup is one of two Group 1 features at Sha Tin racecourse this Sunday, the other being the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).