Armed with options heading towards LONGINES Hong Kong International Raceday in December, Tony Millard will adopt a flexible approach with Panfield after the star stayer’s effortless trial win at Sha Tin on Tuesday (14 September).
Last season’s Champion Stayer of Hong Kong, Panfield is likely to kick off his 2021/22 campaign in the Group 2 Oriental Watch 60th Anniversary Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) on 17 October after hitting the line strongly under Karis Teetan over 1600m this morning.
Casting further ahead, Millard will plot a course to either the HKD$30 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) or the HKD$20 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) on 12 December.
“It was a very nice trial,” dual Hong Kong Derby-winning trainer Millard said of Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup winner Panfield. “He just did a bit of pace work and then he finished off. Karis is very happy with him. He sat behind the leaders and he just needs a bit of distance on his legs.
“He runs in a handicap mile in the middle of next month. I’m not sure how many runs he’ll have before International day, but maybe two or three.”
Weighing up which of the two races he might eventually target at the December showpiece meeting, Millard was typically pragmatic.
“It will depend on the opposition. Whichever is the weakest, that’s where we’re going to go,” he said.
Douglas Whyte will helm a similarly conservative course with BMW Hong Kong Derby runner-up Russian Emperor, who finished ninth in a 1000m trial under Jerry Chau behind Dublin Star.
“He was just there to have a hit-out. He hadn’t been on the track for a while. He’s done a lot of steady, progressive work and he’s been gelded,” Whyte said.
“He blew the cobwebs out, Jerry was very complimentary with the way he was striding.
“He wasn’t there to win the trial by any means but he held his own.
“He will probably kick off on the 26th (of September) in a 1400m (Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap), it’s probably going to be a bit short for him but he has to get to the races, he has to get competitive again and then we’ll head off to bigger and better things after that.”
The HKD$3.7 million Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) is also a potential pipe-opener for Caspar Fownes-trained Southern Legend after the veteran’s trial fifth behind Glorious Dragon over 1000m.
“He trialled alright. I wasn’t expecting too much. He has summered extremely well and stuck on a bit of beef like his trainer. He’s just coming along,” Fownes said.
“At this stage, I might run him at the end of the month but I might skip that and go a bit later, just depending on how he pulls up. He trialled alright but I would have liked to have seen him come through the line a little bit better that last 100m.”
BMW Hong Kong Derby winner Sky Darci was also under little pressure today as he crossed the line in second place behind Dublin Star ahead of a LONGINES Hong Kong International raceday tilt.
“He went alright. Like the others, he summered well and he’ll be at his peak fitness when it counts.
“Having said that, he’ll still competitive in the earlier races but they’re all going to be targeted to be thriving in late November and mid-December.”
Fownes will send Sky Field to the trials next week before the Group 3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) winner heads towards the Group 3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) on 1 October before extending to the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) on 17 October.
Yet to formally settle on Sky Darci or Sky Field’s December assignment, Fownes is not shying away from a potential clash with champion Golden Sixty.
“I’m not afraid of him, I’ll take him on. I’m not afraid of him. I respect he’s a superstar but champions get beat,” Fownes said.
“Hopefully, we’re the ones to knock him off his perch but that’s a long way to go, but we’ll certainly be trying our best because that’s what racing is about. “We’ll certainly be trying to improve our horses and get a good result.”