Hong Kong’s four-year-old’s provide a fascinating sub-plot to Sunday’s Group 1 double-header at Sha Tin with nine BMW Hong Kong Derby entrants engaged across two competitive Class 2 handicaps.
The weekend’s Four-Year Old Classic Series cohort includes the likes of Waikuku, Nicconi Express, Ho Ho Khan and Helene Leadingstar.
Dark Dream is not among them. His ticket is already booked for the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the following weekend’s (27 January) Hong Kong Classic Mile. Instead, trainer Frankie Lor’s galloper stepped out in a barrier trial at Sha Tin this morning, Friday, 18 January.
“Dark Dream felt good, he’s in good health, he trialled well and I’m looking forward to the big day. I’m quite confident he’ll run a very big race in the Classic Mile,” jockey Silvestre de Sousa said.
The Australian import rolled home close behind G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase hero Exultant in the four-runner 1200m dirt track trial.
“If you look at him, physically, even his coat, there’s more shine to it, and he looks like he’s getting stronger so we hope he has improved,” De Sousa observed.
Last time out, Dark Dream won the same 2000m Class 2 Handicap Exultant won a year prior en route to three smart, albeit unsuccessful, runs in the Classic Series races, and he did it in similarly impressive fashion.
“I don’t think it will be a problem for Dark Dream going back down to a mile but there is a question mark after the way he won last time. But he ran very well at the mile when he was third on debut and he was a bit unlucky with how the pace of that race went,” De Sousa said.
Joao Moreira, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Moreira rates Size youngsters
The John Size-trained duo Waikuku and Nicconi Express impressed jockey Joao Moreira with their victories at Sha Tin on 1 January.
Waikuku lines up on Sunday in the Class 2 Po Yan Handicap (1400m), alongside the Classic Mile-entered Mission Tycoon and Glorious Spectrum, and fellow Derby entrants Taking Aim and Won Won Too.
“The impression Waikuku left last start, when he won, gives us quite a lot of confidence for Sunday’s race. He feels like he’s very much a stayer. I’m confident that when we stretch him to longer distances we’ll see him perform even better.” Moreira said.
The three-time Hong Kong champion jockey partners Nicconi Express against Helene Leadingstar, Ho Ho Khan and Classic Beauty in the Class 2 New Street Handicap (1800m).
“When Nicconi Express was stretched over a little bit farther he just travelled so nicely and turned for home kindly, wanting to get there and he did it well,” he said.
And the Brazilian admitted that he cannot say which horse might prove to be the better of the two.
“It’s hard to tell at this stage. I just feel that they both have so much upside still and they have impressed me quite a lot, and really quite the same. I can’t split them yet but I can say that they are both very nice horses with plenty of potential,” he said.
Meanwhile, jockey Vincent Ho partnered Ho Ho Khan to notch back-to-back wins in November and December and has the big four-year-old races in mind ahead of the David Hall-trained colt’s return to action.
“He’s still young and he’s improving. He’s a really good horse and I think he’s ready to fight with the big boys - Class 2 should be okay,” Ho said.