The Davis Files - the comprehensive review of the Stewards' Cup meeting at Sha Tin on Sunday, January 23rd, 2022
Race 1 – D B Pin Handicap, HK $1,040,000
Class 4 – Turf - Distance 1000m - Track Good
Time: 57.18 Standard Time: 56.40 Course/Class record: 54.94 United We Stand
Winner: KOWLOON EAST STAR (AUS 4yo g Zoustar – Cardinal Court) bounced quickly from the favourable outside draw down the straight and took up a leading role in the opening stages under Ruan Maia. He was travelling strongly but not overdoing it in front, holding about a length advantage as they joined up with the course proper with about 500m to run. Maia had many of his rivals off the bit and chasing with 400m remaining but didn’t ask the four-year-old for maximum effort until passing the 300m point where he was still about a length in front. He continued to respond to the urgings of Maia and he went to the line to win comfortably by three-quarters of a length under hands and heels.
Runner-Up: FLYING HIGH jumped on terms but was squeezed between runners shortly after leaving the barriers, settling about midfield under Matthew Chadwick who was out toward the centre of the track. He was travelling well, and Chadwick crossed in behind to obtain cover with 600m to run before beginning to apply the pressure with 450m remaining. He stuck on well down the straight to run into second position, but he was never a threat to the winner.
Run Of The Race: EL JEFE was bumped at the start and found himself 2-1/2 lengths off the second-last horse in the early stages and was under heavy riding by Matthew Poon for much of the 1000m journey. He looked as though he would tail off out of the race, but he picked up strongly over the final stages. He doesn’t win often, but with more luck next start he can certainly finish closer.
Disappointment: CALIFORNIA VANES was on debut for the Tony Cruz yard with Zac Purton doing the steering. He was solid in betting and became favourite after the scratching of Lucky Gor at the barriers. He travelled fairly but came under heavy pressure and couldn’t match it with the first few over the final 400m. He weakened over the final 150m to finish 2-1/4 lengths off the win in sixth place.
Comparison: Outside standard time.
Market Mover: Money came for LUCKY GOR who was holding more than HK$7 million before being a late scratching.
Race 2 – Able Friend Handicap, HK $2,400,000
Class 2 – Turf - Distance 1400m - Track Good
Time: 1:21.52 Standard Time: 1:21.20 Course/Class record: 1:20.28 Fantastic Treasure
Winner: THE GOLDEN SCENERY (AUS 4yo g Deep Field – Saga’s Gift) jumped on terms but didn’t show much pace in the early going, settling toward the rear of the field under Joao Moreira. Moreira stayed away from the rail through the middle stages allowing him to pull out into the three-wide trail when the pace slackened turning off the back straight. The Brazilian continued to improve around runners, ending up four-wide as they straightened but he’d built enough momentum to be in line with the leaders with 400m to run. He took the lead shortly after straightening and after a few nervous moments, he took off with 250m to go and said ‘catch me if you can’. He sprinted away from the rest of the field and won very easily by 2-1/2 lengths.
Runner-Up: SETANTA Jumped well from an inside draw and settled in about third position one off the rail as they began making the turn. Karis Teetan would ease him back around the turn though, taking up a position three-wide with cover with 650m remaining before hooking onto the back of the eventual winner as they straightened. He tried to match motors with the winner early in the straight, but he was no match. He stuck on well to finish second, holding on in a close photo finish.
Run Of The Race: THE GOLDEN SCENERY was aided by a very smart ride by Joao Moreira, allowing the gelding to keep his momentum up and keep him out of trouble around the turn. He has been plagued by bad luck in his previous starts, but Moreira ensured he would be given every possible chance. He sprinted clear in the straight and he was far too good for his rivals.
Disappointment: HIGHLAND FORTUNE broke well and used the inside to his advantage to sit inside of the leader, before crossing to his outside as they turned off the back. He appeared to be travelling well, but he was one of the first horses to come under pressure as they began to turn into the home straight. He put up a fight in the early part of the straight, but he was already beaten with 300m to go and he fell back through the field as Alex Badel eased up on the gelding, going to the line untested over the final stages. He would finish 9-1/4 lengths off the winner after jumping as the second favourite.
Comparison: Just outside of standard time.
Market Mover: HIGHLAND FORTUNE and HINCHINLOVE were both supported late in betting.
Race 3 – The Centenary Sprint Cup, HK $12,000,000
Group One – Turf - Distance 1200m - Track Good
Time: 1:08.78 Standard Time: 1:08.30 Course/Class record: 1:07.50 Sacred Kingdom
Winner: STRONGER (AUS 5yo g Not A Single Doubt – Star Pupil) jumped on terms but was eased back by Vincent Ho in the early going, settling near the back of the field. The field travelled along at a good pace on the turn and Ho eased out into the three-wide trail passing the 600m point, getting a nice cart into the race while still having a strong hold of the gelding as they straightened. He quickened well when placed under pressure by Ho and he ranged up to the leaders with 300m to run. He took the lead with 250m to go, but he was being challenged on his outside throughout the final stages of the race. It was head-and-head over the final furlong, but he out muscled his opponent in the final few strides to win by a head and give Douglas Whyte his first Group One win as a trainer.
Runner-Up: SKY FIELD flopped out of the gates and was a clear last in the early going, but Blake Shinn was in no hurry, allowing the gelding to find his stride at the tail of the field. He was sitting a couple of lengths off the second last horse, but began to tack onto the back of the field with around 650m remaining. Shinn was sitting three-wide with cover but was shoved out even deeper on the track as they straightened, being the widest runner as they turned for the judge. He was alongside the winner the entire home straight, but despite the efforts of Shinn he just could not get his nose in front, going down narrowly in a brave effort.
Run Of The Race: STRONGER was simply that. He showed so much grit and determination to fight of Sky Field in the final stages and hold on to win his first Group One.
Disappointment: COURIER WONDER continues to go around at the pointy end of the market and jumped favourite once again today. He jumped well and took up his usual role of sitting on the pace, and he appeared to be tracking well as they straightened. After ranging up to the leaders, the gelding began to drift back through the field and would finish four lengths off the winner in 6th place. He does have a genuine excuse though, with a veterinary exam post-race revealing a substantial amount of blood in his trachea.
Comparison: Outside the standard time.
Market Mover: Money came for plenty of runners with COURIER WONDER backed into favouritism late with SKY FIELD, HOT KING PRAWN and SUPER WEALTHY all specked.
Race 4 – Helene Paragon Handicap, HK $1,040,000
Class 4 – Turf - Distance 1400m - Track Good
Time: 1:22.97 Standard Time: 1:21.75 Course/Class record: 1:20.80 Perfect Pair
Winner: BEAUTY LIVE (AUS 4yo g Shamus Award – Miss Ethics) jumped well and was urged along from the wide barrier and ended up taking the lead under Joao Moreira after the remainder of the field opted for a trailing position. Moreira was able to eventually work his way down to the rail as they turned off the back straight with 800m to run with the pace being only fair throughout the middle stages. Moreira stuck to the rail as they straightened and the gelding kicked clear on straightening, leaving his rivals in his wake early in the straight. He would continue to extend the margin over the final stages to win very impressively by 2-1/2 lengths.
Runner-Up: PRIDE OF DRAGON jumped well from his middle draw but Ruan Maia was reluctant to push forward aboard the flashy grey and was eventually caught three-wide and without cover on settling down, sitting on the pace as they turned off the back straight. He travelled nicely despite being wide and without cover, improving from the 600m to join the leaders as they turned into the straight. He stuck on brilliantly down the home straight to finish a length clear in second position at massive $80 odds.
Run Of The Race: PRIDE OF DRAGON probably won’t be going around at the massive odds he started in this race after a great effort to finish second. Caught wide and without cover, he stuck on brilliantly in the home straight to finish in second with many of the other front runners drifting back through the field. BEAUTY LIVE was also an impressive winner and looks as though he’ll be winning more races in the near future.
Disappointment: DANDY YEARS jumped with the field but was snagged back by Antoine Hamelin in the opening stages, drifting all the way back to settle toward the rear of the field. He raced with his mouth ajar through the middle stages and did not respond to Hamelin’s riding in the straight, finishing 6-3/4 lengths off the winner in last place. There is a genuine excuse for the gelding’s poor performance though, as he was found to have bled from both nostrils after the race.
Comparison: Over a second outside standard.
Market Mover: BEAUTY LIVE was backed into favouritism with DANDY YEARS was also supported.
Race 5 – Aerovelocity Handicap, HK $1,570,000
Class 3 – Turf - Distance 1200m - Track Good
Time: 1:09.62 Standard Time: 1:08.90 Course/Class record: 1:08.29 Dublin Star
Winner: READY TO WIN (NZ 5yo g Tavistock – Sursum Corda) was a touch slow away and drifted back from the outside draw to settle near the back of the field under Derek Leung. Although he was near the back of the field, he was actually racing three-wide without cover. He was travelling well through the middle stages and Leung began to make his run around the field, getting pushed out to be the widest runner on straightening. He was a whopping 6-3/4 lengths off the leader with 400m to run, but he sprinted well in the straight and was motoring home under the urgings of Leung. He got to the lead with 50m to run and was finishing the best of the field, hitting the line with a full head of steam to win by a neck.
Runner-Up: HERE COMES TED got away fairly from his middle draw and Matthew Chadwick was able to slot him in one off the rail just back of midfield. He tracked into the race beautifully before Chadwick began making his move with 600m to run, moving out three-wide but he was pushed out even further on straightening as rivals to his inside began making their moves too. He stuck on brilliantly in the straight and was alongside the eventual winner throughout the final stages, but the winner just went home the better.
Run Of The Race: ROCK YA HEART jumped well and settled in behind the leaders, but he was racing keenly through the early and middle stages. Vincent Ho peeled out three-wide and the gelding ran on gamely for third. Many of his rivals on the pace faded out of the race, but Rock Ya Heart was brave in defeat. If he can settle better in his runs, he’s sure to bring up a win soon.
Disappointment: JUMBO FORTUNE was on debut in Hong Kong but his trials leading into his debut were good. Partnered by Joao Moreira, he missed the start and settled at the rear of the field. He just couldn’t get into the race and after making some ground early in the straight, he weakened shortly after and finished 4-3/4 lengths off the winner in 11th position.
Comparison: Well outside standard.
Market Mover: JUMBO FORTUNE jumped a rock-solid favourite with money coming for EXCELLENT DADDY late in betting.
Race 6 – Giant Treasure Handicap, HK $1,040,000
Class 4 – Turf - Distance 1800m - Track Good
Time: 1:48.51 Standard Time: 1:47.60 Course/Class record: 1:46.54 Crown Avenue
Winner: DARCI JOY (NZ 4yo g Darci Brahma – High Joy) wasn’t the fastest into stride but he mustered well under Matthew Chadwick, who was able to slot him in one off the rail inside the first 400m of the race, settling just off the pace. The pace was good in the early going and Chadwick was able to get the gelding to relax into a nice rhythm as he stayed away from the rail turning off the back straight. The pace slowed on the turn but Chadwick was able to keep his momentum up, moving three-wide with cover on the point of the turn. Chadwick began to apply the pressure with 450m to run but it took him a while to work through his gears. He started to get a wriggle on with 200m to go and he’d gone up to take with lead with 100m to run. He proved too strong over the concluding stages to run home the better and bring up back-to-back victories by a neck.
Runner-Up: JOYFUL HEART jumped fairly and Derek Leung was able to get into a midfield position sitting one off the rail, trailing the eventual winner throughout the race. Leung stalked Darci Joy throughout the race, sticking to his back around the turn before coming off his heels at the top of the straight. He let down well and was actually in front of the winner with 150m to run, but he couldn’t hold him off in the dying stages and was forced to settle for second place.
Run Of The Race: DARCI JOY went out 8lbs in weight off his last start win, but it didn’t affect him one bit. He was the strongest over the closing stages and he may have more in store after another impressive win today.
Disappointment: BIG BROOK settled at the rear of the field under Luke Ferraris but was caught out three-wide without cover in the early going. He would remain in that position throughout the race and was one of the widest runners on straightening. He would only plug away down the straight, picking up a couple of spots to finish in sixth place, 2-3/4 lengths away.
Comparison: Almost a second outside standard time.
Market Mover: RED ELYSEES was backed into favouritism with AI ONE also getting some support.
Race 7 – The Stewards’ Cup, HK $12,000,000
Group One – Turf - Distance 1600m - Track Good
Time: 1:34.82 Standard Time: 1:33.30 Course/Class record: 1:32.64 Beauty Generation
Winner: WAIKUKU (IRE 7yo g Harbour Watch – London Plane) jumped quickly and was able to take a trail on the leaders back in the early stages with Zac Purton able to cross to the rail easily. The pace was okay down the back straight and Purton crossed to sit outside the leader as they began making the turn. He travelled well around the turn and Purton went up to eyeball the leader, before taking the lead shortly after straightening. He sprinted well and he was 2 lengths in front with 200m to run, but nothing could catch him. He was strong right to the line and captured another Group One victory by three-quarters of a length.
Runner-Up: GOLDEN SIXTY jumped very well from gate one but was immediately restrained by Vincent Ho, taking him back to the rear of the field in the early going. He was 7-1/2 lengths off the leader passing the 1200m point and the superstar was racing with the mouth ajar, being held on the rail as they turned off the back. Ho began pushing off the rail with 600m to run, getting clear air and coming under pressure passing the 500m point. He sprinted well and tried his heart out to peg back the leader in the straight, running a blistering 21.95 second final 400m split, but he just had too much ground to make up with the unbeaten streak coming to an end.
Run Of The Race: RUSSIAN EMPEROR backed up his outstanding run in the Hong Kong Cup to finish a gallant third again today, dropping back to the 1600m journey. He is still a maiden in Hong Kong, but he looks set to run a big race in the Hong Kong Gold Cup in a month’s time.
Disappointment: GOLDEN SIXTY it’s hard to be a disappointment when you run second and run a blistering sectional to the finish, but he was just so far back and it was unlike him to be over racing down the back straight. He was on his toes in the mounting yard as well, but he just had so much ground to make up over the final 600m. He’ll bounce back as champions do, but it was very deflating to see him go down.
Comparison: Way outside standard.
Market Mover: GOLDEN SIXTY jumped a heavily backed favourite, while WAIKUKU was also tried late.
Race 8 – Peniaphobia Handicap, HK $1,040,000
Class 4 – Turf - Distance 1200m - Track Good
Time: 1:09.70 Standard Time: 1:09.10 Course/Class record: 1:08.40 Master Eight
Winner: PINS PRINCE (NZ 4yo g Pins – Urban) bounced well off the inside and after being on the pace in the early going, Joao Moreira eased back to settle in behind the leaders as they turned off the back. He was racing keenly around the turn with the pace being only moderate in the middle stages. Moreira stayed to the inside and appeared as though he might be in a spot of bother on straightening, but the leader came away from the rail giving the gelding a saloon passage. He quickened well under the urgings of Moreira and he booted through to take the lead with 250m remaining. He stuck on well over the concluding stages to hold on under the big weight, reaching the line in the nick of time to win by a short head.
Runner-Up: LESLIE jumped well but was caught out deep from his wide draw in the early going, with Purton able to gain cover, albeit three-wide, as they turned off the back straight. He was just forward of midfield on the turn, with Purton starting to urge the gelding along from the 500m point, coming off heels and into clear air as they straightened. He stuck on gamely down the straight and was always neck-and-neck with the winner, but he just couldn’t get his nose in front over the dying stages.
Run Of The Race: DURHAM STAR was taken back from his wide draw with Lyle Hewitson positioning the gelding just worse than midfield. Hewitson was able to push his way into the clear with the gelding storming home over the final stages to finish just a short head off the winner, missing out on a top-two finish in a photo.
Disappointment: CLASSIC MOON was a dominant winner on debut after running on strongly from the back, and Derek Leung adopted the same tactics today. Unfortunately, after peeling wide in the straight, the gelding didn’t let down as he had on debut and finished 6-1/2 lengths away in last place. Leung told steward’s he believed it was due to the big rise in weight, with a veterinary examination failing to reveal any abnormality.
Comparison: Outside the standard time.
Market Mover: LESLIE was well supported as favourite, with PINS PRINCE and MARVEL DRAGON both specked as well.
Race 9 – Seasons Bloom Handicap, HK $1,570,000
Class 3 – Turf - Distance 2000m - Track Good
Time: 2:01.60 Standard Time: 2:01.75 Course/Class record: 2:00.37 Champion Supreme
Winner: SUPERBELLA (GB 6yo g Passing Glance – Lizzie Tudor) jumped quickly but was restrained shortly after the start by Joao Moreira, eventually settling about midfield along the rail when they got fully into stride. The Brazilian came off the rail to improve between runners as they turned into the back straight, still around midfield as the pace was okay through the middle stages. The pace continued to slacken around the turn and Moreira came wider on the track in an attempt to find a gap upon straightening. He was able to push his way into the clear with 400m to run and he sprinted well to take the lead with 150m to run. He pulled away after taking the lead, running on powerfully to win by 1-3/4 lengths and give Joao Moreira his fourth winner on the day.
Runner-Up: CHARITY GO jumped well and went forward under Zac Purton who was able to get one off the rail as they made the first turn. He was positioned just forward of midfield as they field sorted their order out. Purton would remain in that spot for most of the race before coming out wider on the turn with 500m to run, getting into the clear at the top of the straight. He took the lead with 250m to run and was running on powerfully, but the winner was just far too good at the finish.
Run Of The Race: INTREPID WINNER turned in a very eye-catching run at just his third start in Hong Kong and his first at 2000m. He found himself well back on straightening, but he was responding well to the urgings of Hamelin in the straight, but the Frenchman had to bob and weave his way through traffic over the final 250m. He closed off powerfully to finish third, but he doesn’t look too far from a win.
Disappointment: WINNING DRAGON arrived in Hong Kong as a dual Group One winner in Chile but he has been unable to recapture that form since arriving. He enjoyed a brilliant run in transit and had no excuses for his poor performance, with a post-race veterinary exam not revealing any abnormalities.
Comparison: Inside standard time.
Market Mover: The money came for KING TOURBILLON, INTREPID WINNER, VINCY and NATURAL STORM who were all at double figure odds.
Race 10 – Beat The Clock Handicap, HK $1,570,000
Class 3 – Turf - Distance 1400m - Track Good
Time: 1:22.36 Standard Time: 1:21.45 Course/Class record: 1:20.62 Preciousship
Winner: NAVAS TWO (AUS 4yo g Excelebration – Our Cougette) jumped well from his middle draw but was caught wide in the early going under Ruan Maia. He was eventually left wide and without cover as the passed the 900m point with Maia settling the gelding on the pace as they turned off the back straight. The Brazilian jockey would just ease his own tempo on the turn, losing a touch of ground to the leaders but allowing his mount to catch his breath before turning into the home straight. He was travelling well into the straight and when Maia pushed the button, the response was immediate. The four-year-old took the lead with 150m remaining and he pulled away to win impressively yet again, bringing up a hat-trick of wins and giving Ruan Maia a double on the day.
Runner-Up: SEASONS BLISS jumped well and was able to find cover in the early stages under Vincent Ho, settling just off the pace and between runners. There wouldn’t be much change in the order through the middle stages, but Ho had plenty of traffic in front of him as they turned into the home straight. Ho crossed back toward the inside of the track where the gaps had opened up and he began to let down beautifully. He was running on well but was partially hampered when a horse ran out in front of him, briefly halting his momentum, but he picked up well again and ran home gamely to get into second position.
Run Of The Race: NAVAS TWO holds a nomination for the BMW Hong Kong Derby in a few months’ time, but would have to win a couple more to get his rating high enough to contend the Group One feature. He’s racing very well though and will more than likely have to tackle Class 2 company at his next outing. He’s going well and he doesn’t look like stopping.
Disappointment: NOTHING NEW pushed on from the wide gate to sit outside of the leader but was racing keenly after getting to that position. He was beaten as they straightened and he wasn’t responding to the urgings of Matthew Chadwick in the straight, finishing 4-1/4 lengths away in ninth position.
Comparison: Well outside the standard time.
Market Mover: There was plenty of money flying about in the last. NOTHING NEW was supported late along with BEAUTY CHAMP, PRIME MINISTER, DRAGON FORTUNE and CIRCUIT MIGHTY all specked at double figures.
Stronger and Vincent Ho before the empty stands of Sunday's meeting due to pandemic restrictions, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club