Vincent Ho put BMW Hong Kong Derby standout Golden Sixty through a gallop at Sha Tin yesterday morning (Friday, 13 March) but the gun rider’s immediate focus rests upon this weekend’s action, particularly the next step in Preciousship’s attempted ascent to the higher grades.
Preciousship (113lb) has shown impressive improvement this term and in today’s (14 March) Class 1 Lung Cheung Handicap (1600m) the Irish-bred will shoot for a fifth win of the campaign at his seventh start.
“I’m pretty confident,” Ho said. “The handicap helps – he’ll be much better carrying a light weight because he’s a small horse.”
Ho has been in the plate for the Ricky Yiu-trained galloper’s last five starts, including his four wins, but sat out the five-year-old’s most recent barrier trial due to a sore knee.
“I watched his trial the other day and he did it well – he seems to have kept his form,” the rider said.
Ho believes the Iffraaj gelding is not done improving, with “Group race handicaps for sure” within his scope, and Yiu shares that conviction.
“This horse takes all his races very easily now and I think there’s still a fair bit of improvement in him. I’ll not be surprised if he makes it to Group races; if he faces stronger company, he still can perform,” Yiu said.
“He’s been tremendous, he’s never run a bad race this season and he’ll run well again.”
Preciousship has climbed from a start-of-season rating of 71 to his current mark of 99 and Yiu attributes that improvement mostly to maturity. The bay, known as Riyazan pre-import, was tried in high-class company as a juvenile and notched a Listed win at Dundalk.
But Preciousship found things tough during his first season in Hong Kong.
“Last season, we had to pull him out behind the stalls first up and then he ran eight times and didn’t do anything,” Yiu recalled. “But we gelded him and these European horses really need about 12 months to acclimatise, so now he’s turned into a very consistent horse. He’ll run another good race.”
The competitive field of 11 features top-weight Ka Ying Star (133lb) who drops down to Class 1 from Group races for the first time since last July. The Tony Cruz-trained five-year-old has hit the Group 1 frame in his last two starts, latterly when second to Beauty Generation in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).
Zac Purton was the victor on that occasion and has seen plenty of Ka Ying Star, given that the gelding has vied with Beauty Generation for the lead in major races this term.
“He trialled well with me recently, so I’m looking forward to riding him,” Purton said. “At least I’ve got a feel of him and I’ll know more about the horse after this race.
“It’s never easy going back into Class 1 with top-weight but I thought his last effort was really good. We’ll see what type of run he gets in the race but I’m sure he’s going to run well.”
The competitive contest also features the likes of last start winner Harmony Victory (122lb), Simply Brilliant (121lb), Fat Turtle (120lb) and Time To Celebrate (113lb).
Meanwhile, Purton will side with the Yiu-trained Mighty Giant in Saturday’s final race, the Class 3 Sheung Hei Handicap (1400m). The four-year-old has raced only in Class 4 so far, notching two wins from five outings, including a four and a quarter-length score at the course and distance last time.
“I was impressed,” Purton said. “He did it the hard way, he drew a wide gate (14) and did plenty of work to get there and also through the mid stages. He was strong the last 200 (metres) so it was a good effort.
“I think he showed last time that he’s an improving horse, he’s lightly-raced and there’s a lot to like about him physically. There’s no reason why he can’t handle the class.”
Golden Sixty satisfied Ho and trainer Francis Lui with a routine gallop on the all-weather track yesterday morning as he prepares for the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
“He just had an easy gallop, it was normal work and he feels his usual self,” Ho said, after working the Derby’s top-rated contender over 1200m alongside Star Shine.
Golden Sixty has already bagged the first two legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series – the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) – and he did so in brilliant style. Should he won the Derby, he would become only the second horse, after Rapper Dragon (2017), to complete the Classic Series set.
Lui also has More Than This in the Derby shake-up, the British import having made the frame behind his stablemate in the first two legs.
“Golden Sixty and More Than This are both well, I’m happy with what they did this morning. They just worked on the all-weather track and next Tuesday we will gallop them on the turf,” he said.
The BMW Hong Kong Derby will be run at Sha Tin on Sunday, 22 March.