Joao Moreira believes Caspar Fownes-trained Senor Toba can parade BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) credentials when the grey contests the Class 2 Hong Kong Sports Institute 30th Anniversary Cup Handicap (2000m) at Sha Tin on Monday (27 December).
Hopeful of potentially sharing another Hong Kong Derby triumph with Fownes after Sky Darci’s epic victory last March, Moreira is confident Senor Toba – who ran second in the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) on 29 May – has the requisite quality.
“My assessment of him is that he’s a very nice horse, very promising and he’s adapting to the Hong Kong environment, the pace of racing here and the track itself but he might be just ready to win because he’s got quality, he’s got ability,” the Brazilian said.
“We all think he’s a 2000 metre horse. The conditions suit him perfectly on Monday. I had a gallop on him this week (Thursday, 23 December) and he gave me such a good feel, so I would be very surprised if he goes there and doesn’t perform.”
Despite the presence of Senor Toba – and several other lightly-raced talents – Tony Cruz believes Berlin Tango is primed to notch his first victory in Hong Kong after finishing seventh behind Japanese champion Loves Only You in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) on 12 December.
“He pulled up very good after the Group One race. There’s been no setback after this race and I’m very happy with him,” Cruz said. “I don’t think he was good enough to run with them last time but, in this field, he stands a good chance.
“I think this horse could be very good on the dirt ultimately. I think he could be a contender for Dubai but I need to get his rating up (from 87), so hopefully he can win this race.”
A Group 3 winner over 1999m at Kempton Racecourse, England for Andrew Balding in June, 2020, Berlin Tango has been placed on three occasions in 11 Hong Kong starts for Cruz.
Armed with a full book of 10 rides, including Beauty Champ in the Class 3 Hong Kong Elite Athletes Cup Handicap (1400m), Moreira partners promising Pins Prince in the first section of the Class 4 Fencing Handicap (1400m) for John Size.
“He was a bit unlucky not to win last time, even though I was extremely happy with the way he hit the line. He’s progressed since, no doubt about it,” Moreira said. “He’s a horse on the learning process still and I’ll be very disappointed if he doesn’t go there and perform again.
“He’s done nothing wrong so far, but it’s a bit tricky from the wide gate (barrier 12), but we’re going to do the best we can.”
David Hayes hopes Metro Warrior’s consistency is rewarded when the gelding contests the Class 3 Equestrian Handicap (1000m) under Luke Ferraris.
“He’s very consistent at this level, always puts his run up and he’ll be hard to beat,” Hayes said. “He just doesn’t win a lot but I’m pretty confident he can run in the first three.
“He’s certainly got terrific gate speed and he loves the straight.”
Winner of only one of his 19 Hong Kong starts, Metro Warrior has tallied five seconds and three thirds and will shoulder 132lb from barrier two on Monday.
Blake Shinn is optimistic David Hall-trained Maldives can overcome barrier 14 in the second section of the Class 3 Karate 1400m Handicap after two recent luckless runs.
“It is a little bit complicated with the draw but he is a horse who likes to get back, so we’re just going to allow him to settle back. The key with the horse is that it’s mainly pace-related so if he gets the pace to suit, that’s going to enhance his chances,” Shinn said.
“I’ve always liked the horse and he’s continually progressed under David Hall’s care. Let’s hope we can get another win on Monday. He’s got a great turn of foot and hopefully the tempo will be strong enough for him to overhaul them.”
Monday’s (27 December) Sha Tin meeting kicks off with the first section of the Class 5 Swimming 1400m Handicap at 1.pm.