Jockey Joao Moreira believes that The Golden Age has the form on the board to score a first Hong Kong stakes success when he contests Sunday’s (3 June) Group 3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin.
The Tony Cruz-trained The Golden Age (113lb) was a Group 3 winner from four starts in France, taking the Prix La Rochette (1400m) at Saint-Cloud as a juvenile when named Kontrastat. And while the four-year-old has only won a pair of Class 2 handicaps from 10 Hong Kong starts, he was placed in the Group 3 January Cup (1800m) at Happy Valley earlier this year before a number of good efforts against his own age group in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“This is a very consistent horse, he’s very likeable,” Moreira said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (1 June). “I believe that he’s capable, especially in a handicap race where the weights are in his favour. He’s the one that jumps out when you look at the race, so I’m looking forward to riding him for the first time.”
Moreira, particularly, takes heart from The Golden Age’s Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) run. The My Risk gelding finished third to Singapore Sling in the second leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, with the Moreira-ridden Nothingilikemore – the winner of the series’ first leg, the Hong Kong Classic Mile – a length behind him in fourth.
“I think if Nothingilikemore was in here with the minimum weight, he would be a heavy favourite,” Moreira said. “I hope that The Golden Age can run up to that form because if he does, he is one of the horses to beat in this race, for sure. That form is strong.”
Last time, at his first start in two months, The Golden Age could not arrest the lead in the Class 1 Hong Kong Macau Trophy (1400m), sitting handy before sticking on for third behind stablemate California Whip. Moreira predicts a more favourable pace scenario here with the step back up to a mile.
“He’s a forward type of horse who should be up there, I presume Tony will ask me to lead on him this time,” Moreira said. “He wasn’t able to lead last time as the pace was quite hot but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be anything like that this time. I think he’s going to be able to find the lead and, if so, we know that he is hard to run down.”
Moreira also believes that The Golden Age should not just be pigeon-holed as a Happy Valley specialist, despite the fact that he has not yet broken through for a victory at Sha Tin.
“It’s easy to look at his form and think that he is better at Happy Valley,” the Brazilian rider said. “However, he has been running against stronger horses at Sha Tin and has been running very well. I think Sha Tin suits him just fine and I’m hoping he can produce his best run yet on Sunday.”
Cruz also sends out 2016 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile winner Beauty Only (130lb), who finished second to Rapper Dragon in this race’s inaugural running that same year. Neil Callan continues his partnership with last season’s Champion Miler.
“He’s in good nick,” Callan said. “He’s got to give a lot of weight away to a few nice horses, which is tough in any race, but there’s no doubt that if the real Beauty Only turns up, he’s got a good chance.”
Romantic Touch (116lb) completes Cruz’s trio, with the trainer finding it tough to split his three runners.
“This is a good race for all of my horses,” Cruz said. “I hope they can all be competitive, they are at different points in the weights but that makes them very even.”
The John Moore-trained Werther (133lb) heads the weights at his return to racing, while Dinozzo (121lb), Joyful Trinity (115lb), Prawn Baba (113lb), Packing Dragon (113lb), Classic Emperor (113lb) and Sichuan Dar (113lb) also line up.
The Lion Rock Trophy is the seventh of 10 races at Sha Tin on Sunday and is scheduled for 4.10pm. The opener, the Class 4 HKU Faculties Of Architecture And Engineering Handicap (1400m), is set for 12.45pm.