Champion’s Way could have the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on his agenda next term. Trainer John Size’s exciting young galloper will take the next step along that road in the Group 3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (2 June).
Hong Kong’s blue riband is still nine months and a lot of imponderables away but the rising star has put himself at the forefront of early Derby ruminations with five straight wins of such merit that even a last-start defeat could not shake the view that he is a horse of high-class potential.
And, if the bay wins this weekend, he will join the likes of Silent Witness and Rapper Dragon as a rare three-year-old to win a Hong Kong Group race. Rapper Dragon won the Lion Rock Trophy in 2016 en route to a clean-sweep of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series the following term, including a Derby victory.
“This is going to be his hardest test,” jockey Joao Moreira said, “but he’s been doing things fine. He’s very genuine, he tries his best always and we are going to learn from this race as well – we’ll find out if he’s as good as those good horses.”
Champion’s Way’s winning streak ended in Class 2 last time out when his re-opposing stablemate Red Warrior (117lb) charged from deep to best him by a neck. That was the Australian-bred galloper’s first start at a mile but Moreira is confident that the distance is ideal for his mount at this juncture.
“Every time I rode him over 1200 or 1400 metres he indicated that the pace was just too fast for him, he was begging for a little more distance and not such a fast pace,” the Brazilian ace said.
“At this stage he can handle a mile easily, and I’m not going to rule out that he might end up being a 2000-metre horse in future. John Size might have in the back of his mind that he could run in the Derby. I would if I was the trainer.”
Champion’s Way is set to face nine rivals with high-level experience. Size’s charge will break from gate one, rated 102 – 50 points higher than when his career kicked off in January – and with 118lb on his back. Rapper Dragon won this race off a rating of 107 and carried 117lb in defeating top-weight and subsequent Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile hero Beauty Only.
“I honestly think Champion’s Way is a winning chance,” Moreira said. “He has carried big weights in his races and I think the fact that the handicap system gives him a lighter weight this time is going to be a big thing.”