Seasons Bloom completed his Group 1 germination in the HK$10 million Stewards’ Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin Racecourse this afternoon, Sunday, 28 January.
The victory was jockey Joao Moreira’s first in the top grade since last April’s Audemars Piguet QEII Cup: for trainer Danny Shum, the wait stretched back to Little Bridge’s triumph in the 2012 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
“It’s a relief!” Shum said after the maturing talent had sprinted clear of the best milers in town. Seasons Bloom’s turn of pace carried him to a half-length verdict over rising star Fifty Fifty, with Werther a further head away in third. The winning time was 1m 34.74s.
Freshness was the vital factor: Seasons Bloom had not raced since finishing fourth in the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile seven weeks ago.
“He loves to race fresh, this horse,” the handler said. “He was a little bit disappointing on international day, even though he ran a good race – Joao had to use him a lot that day and it made it hard for the horse. He came back with blood in his throat, so we gave him some time off and freshened him up.
“We trialled him and there was no problem; he won first-up this season over 1200 metres, so all of that gave us confidence he could win today,” he said.
That confidence was manifest in the five-year-old returning the 4.1 second pick. And the Australian import’s supporters had few concerns as Moreira settled his mount midfield on the rail, angled out into clear ground turning for home, and whistled past the post at the end of a final 400m clocked at 23.08s.
“He jumped very well today, better than before, and that allowed him to race closer than he has been in the past. When I obtained a clear run in the straight I was full of confidence that he was going to go past those horses in front of him,” said Moreira, whose only previous Group race win this season was achieved on the same horse in November’s Group 2 Jockey Club Mile.
“With 200 metres to go, I was already in front, maybe a little bit too early. But he’s proven that he’s one of the best horses –even though he was in front a bit early, he was strong enough to win.
“I’m proud to ride a Group 1 winner for Danny. He’s been a good support to me throughout my career here in Hong Kong. The team delivered a very good horse, ready to win in my hands today,” the champion jockey added.
As for future plans, Shum is considering multiple options, including a step up to 2000 metres, a distance the son of Captain Sonador attempted last term when fourth in the BMW Hong Kong Derby.
“We’ll talk to the owner and Joao about whether we to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) or just go to the Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m); I’ll see in a few days how the horse has pulled up. We’ll see – we could try the 2000 metres,” said the handler.
Shum, who suffered broken ribs when a horse trampled him in a stables accident a week and a half ago, enjoyed a red letter day all round as he saddled a career-first four-timer. Good Days, Everest and Baltic Whisper preceded Seasons Bloom’s standout effort.
“First time!” he said. “In Chinese they say, ‘If you don’t die this time, luck follows you.’”
Karis Teetan was thrilled with runner-up Fifty Fifty after the exciting grey’s first Group 1 foray.
“He ran brilliantly,” the rider said of Peter Ho’s charge. “He got shuffled back, they eased the pace so quickly and I ended up in a position to go to the rail because there was no horse inside me. I came out a little bit late but he finished off very strongly.”
The John Moore-trained Werther put in a first-rate performance ahead of his main early-year target, the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup over his favoured 2000m next month.
“A better draw might have been a different result, but we make no excuses. A more suitable 2000 metres next start and he’ll be ready to go,” jockey Hugh Bowman said.
Another emerging talent, the Caspar Fownes-trained Southern Legend, powered late and fast from the tail to take fourth, clocking a final 400m split of 22.59s.
“I’m very happy with his run, with the big boys,” jockey Umberto Rispoli said. “He definitely ran much better than last time. We tried to give him a chance and today he was capable at the finish, running a very fast last 400m. Big run from him.”
The race’s 3/1 favourite, Time Warp, was unable to repeat the front-running performance that snared last month’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) after missing the break and over-racing under Zac Purton.