Southern Legend heads to Happy Valley on Wednesday (8 January) night for the Group 3 January Cup Handicap (1800m), aiming to prove his last run to be nothing more than a blip in an otherwise admirable campaign.
The high-class seven-year-old caused an upset when defeating Group 1 winners Exultant and Time Warp in the Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin in November, but finished well down the field behind Glory Vase in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase last time – his first attempt at 2400m.
Caspar Fownes’ Group 1-placed charge will reunite with a formidable ally, champion jockey Zac Purton, who is set to take the reins for the first time since the pair bagged a second successive victory in the SIN Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) in Singapore last May.
“He’s been racing well all season – he looks as if he’s gone to another level this season,” said Purton, who believes the gelding had a sound excuse for finishing more than 10 lengths off the winner last time.
The Australian ace partnered the front-running Exultant to third place on that occasion, with Alberto Sanna stalking him on the rail aboard Southern Legend who faded out in the home straight.
“The first half of the race was run fast and it was going to be hard for Southern Legend to end up staying, so it was a good effort in the end, I thought,” Purton said.
Southern Legend is a two-time winner from three starts at Happy Valley, his wins coming at 1200m back in 2017. His latest effort at the track saw him run home sixth in this race last year, off the back of a fine third to Beauty Generation in the previous month’s Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
His top-level form sees him carry 133lb in the downtown venue’s biggest race of the season.
“It’s never easy in these Group 3 races to carry top-weight, it’s not an easy race,” Purton noted. “Doctor Geoff loves the Valley and he gets in with a good gate (3) and a nice weight (113lb), so he’s going to be there as well.
“And Sacred Capital ran very well when he came (to Hong Kong) before and if he repeats that performance he’s going to be very hard to beat.”
The nine-runner contest also features the Valley’s 1800m track record holder Time Warp (125lb), last year’s winner Simply Brilliant (120lb), 2018 victor Eagle Way (120lb), Harmony Victory (113lb), Insayshable (113lb) and Not Usual Talent (113lb).