Saturday’s HKG3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup (Handicap) at Sha Tin could represent the dawn of a new era in Hong Kong’s staying division with six four-year-olds among the 13 horses engaged for the mile and a half contest.
That sextet of emerging young talents features the BMW HKG1 Hong Kong Derby (2000m) runner-up Got Fly (124lb) from the Richard Gibson stable, the John Size-trained HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) victor Thunder Fantasy (128lb) and the John Moore-trained Derby fourth Helene Happy Star (122lb). Gibson has also engaged last year’s G1 Prix du Jockey Club runner-up Shamkiyr (113lb) for what would be his second start in Hong Kong. Meanwhile the old guard features former Champion Stayer California Memory (133lb) from the Tony Cruz yard and last year’s Queen Mother Memorial Cup winner Bubble Chic (122lb), trained by David Hall.
Jockeys’ premiership leader Joao Moreira will partner the lightly-weighted Savvy Nature (113lb). Moore’s charge, a G2 winner in Australia and fourth at the distance in the G1 Australian Derby, missed the cut for the Hong Kong Derby in March. The four-year-old was instead re-routed to Happy Valley three days later and won an 1800m Class 2 handicap under Moreira. Savvy Nature was a running-on fifth last start behind three of Saturday’s opponents in the Class 2 Hong Kong Jockey Club Community Trophy (Handicap) over 2200m at Sha Tin.
“Savvy Nature’s form right now is outstanding,” said Moreira, “He’s much better than he was when he won at Happy Valley. He pulls a little bit in his races, so we’re hoping he draws a good gate and that I can get him to relax. If that happens, he has a very good chance on Saturday.”
Neil Callan will partner Helene Happy Star and the Irishman is expecting a bold show. The gelding followed his Derby fourth with a solid finish in the G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) nine days ago when he ran home three lengths eighth of 12 behind Blazing Speed, whom Callan rode to victory.
“It’s a nice ride to pick up, he’s a young up-and-coming horse, it was a great run in the Derby and it actually wasn’t a bad effort in the APQEII Cup last time, considering the way that race was run,” said Callan.
“His form is quite solid, in that he has been running quite close in good races, so that would suggest, at the weights, he has a competitive chance. He wasn’t too far behind Got Fly in the Derby and he was running on. He’s in there with a good chance.”
Thunder Fantasy followed a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Derby with victory in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Community Trophy (Handicap). The Gibson-trained pair of Take To The Limit (106lb) and Wayfoong Express (115lb) were a half-length and a further two lengths behind him in the minor places that day, while Lucky Omens (103lb) was sixth and Bubble Chic ninth.
Khaya (129lb) will also represent the Size stable. The five-year-old was third in this race last year and filled the same position in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase at the course and distance in December. Caspar Fownes could saddle Rainbow Chic (128lb) and the hat-trick seeking Renaissance Art (106lb).
Thunder Fantasy, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club