Beauty Generation and Beat The Clock grabbed the headlines with Group 1 triumphs at Sha Tin this afternoon (Sunday, 20 January), but a fascinating undercard saw Waikuku and Ho Ho Khan lead the four-year-old advance along the road to the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
Waikuku (120lb) took his Hong Kong record to two wins from three starts with a dominant win in the final contest, the Class 2 Po Yan Handicap (1400m). The two and a half-length victory built upon a smart breakthrough success three weeks prior.
“That was a very impressive win,” Joao Moreira said of the John Size-trained four-year-old, the Brazilian ace having sealed a four-timer on the day.
“Obviously, he had the run of the race, he was able to slot in two off the fence behind the right horse but when I turned for home and pulled him out he showed a better turn-of-foot than any other horse in the race”
Size sent last year’s Derby winner Ping Hai Star straight into the mile and a quarter test off three 1400m handicap wins.
“I believe Waikuku will be better over farther,” Moreira said. “He’s very kind and gentle during the race and the way he attacked the line, I think it’s going to be better for him as he goes over farther.”
Fellow Derby entrant Taking Aim (124lb), from the John Moore stable, filled the runner-up spot, with another four-year-old, Hinchinlove (123lb), third.
Khan conquers again
Ho Ho Khan (118lb) also took a sizeable stride towards the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 17 March, thanks to a smart win in the Class 2 New Street Handicap (1800m).
David Hall’s Australian import completed a hat-trick of wins under Vincent Ho and is likely to join the Four-Year-Old Classic Series at the second leg, the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on 17 February.
“He certainly delivered today,” Hall said. “I don’t think they (the owners) have to hope anymore, he’ll run in the Classic Cup and then the Derby now, for sure. He’ll have the rating after today. He had to win to get his rating up and I think he qualifies now.”
Ho Ho Khan held fellow Derby candidate Helene Leadingstar (123lb) by three-quarters of a length, with the temperamental Savvy Six (124lb), ninth in last year’s Derby, a further length and a quarter behind in third.
Prior to this afternoon’s success, Ho Ho Khan had raised his rating to 82 from a start-of-season 71.
“It was nice to see him do what he did today to give you confidence that you’re not going there (the Derby) to make the numbers up,” Hall continued. “I think he took a little bit more of a step today, he went quite softly without being punished and the extra 200 metres, well he’ll be all over that.
“It does look a strong year, it looks like there are a lot of nice horses and the form probably hasn’t really come out yet, so the Classic Mile will tell us a lot next week (27 January).”
Another four-year-old with Derby aspirations, Nicconi Express (119lb), started the 1.7 favourite; Size’s charge finished fifth under Moreira, fading in the closing stages of his fourth Hong Kong start.