Sunday’s (7 January) Sha Tin closer, the Class 2 Violet Handicap (1600m), shapes as a potential stepping stone to the HK$10 million Hong Kong Classic Mile on 21 January, and Matthew Chadwick hopes that German import Dragon Lips can advance his claims for the Four-Year-Old Classic Series when he makes his local debut.
Dragon Lips won two of his seven starts in Germany, the Group 3 Dr. Busch-Memorial (1700m) at Krefeld in April and the G2 Meilen Trophy (1600m) at Cologne in July. He was also fourth to Poetic Dream in the Group 2 German 2,000 Guineas (1600m) in May, a race in which fellow Hong Kong import Lockheed was second.
He has trialled twice, catching the eye in his first hit-out over the straight 1000m, but Chadwick believes he will only improve with Sunday’s match fitness under his belt.
“It’s hard to say how he’ll go, having his first start here and it’s a good race,” he said. “He’s drawn a decent barrier (five) so if we can find a nice position on him, hopefully, he will be able to perform first time out and then improve at his following start. He does his work very easily in the mornings so it is hard to get a gauge on him, so the weekend will be very interesting to see where he is at.
“I wouldn’t judge him based on what he does this weekend – watch him develop.”
Trainer Tony Cruz is hoping the Footstepsinthesand gelding has enough about him to make a mark in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“The plan is that after this run he’ll go into the Classic Mile,” Cruz said. “He’s a miler, really, but if all goes well he’ll go on to the Classic Cup and hopefully the Derby.”
Chadwick has also ridden Sunday’s rival and Cruz stable representative Doctor Geoff at his two Hong Kong starts to date and says that it is difficult to compare the two four-year-olds.
“They are two different types of horses,” the jockey said. “Dragon Lips is a much bigger horse, he’s a big strider, while Doctor Geoff is a small, compact horse who surprised me first-up while his second-up run was a write-off. They are at different stages of their preparations, especially in terms of their fitness levels, so it will be an interesting meeting.”
Other horses on trial for a start in the Hong Kong Classic Mile in Sunday’s nightcap include John Moore’s Australian import Good Standing, John Size’s Time To Celebrate, Peter Ho-trained Circuit Glory and Rise High for Caspar Fownes.
A race earlier, Frankie Lor will attempt to secure a Hong Kong Classic Mile berth with Simply Brilliant, who steps out in the Class 3 Orchid Handicap (1400m).
The first son of champion Frankel to race in Hong Kong, Simply Brilliant has shown promise in two starts over 1200m at both Happy Valley and Sha Tin, finishing second both times.
“The distance should suit on Sunday, now up to 1400m,” Lor said. “He trialled last week and he trialled well so I am very hopeful that he can win the race. I want him to get more of a rating so we can decide whether to go to the Classic Mile or not. The owner has already told me he wants to go to the Classic Mile after this run but he might need to win.
“I think the Classic Mile is the right race for him. Every Hong Kong owner with a four-year-old wants to have a runner in the Classic Series, and while this horse might head towards the Derby in the end, I think he has plenty of speed which means the Classic Mile is a better race for him.”