Western Express has the HK$23m LONGINES Hong Kong Mile as his destination after narrowly scoring his first win for the season in the Class 1 Panasonic Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Saturday.
Western Express (purple) just gets up to defeat Wah May Friend to win the Panasonic Cup under Joao Moreira.
John Size’s chestnut was sent out 2.7 favourite with Joao Moreira in the saddle upon his return to restricted company, having finished eighth in the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) and fifth in the G2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) – both behind Beauty Generation – to start his term.
Settled just beyond midfield on the rail by Moreira, Western Express (131lb) sprinted strongly once shifted into the clear at the 250m, although it was only right on the line that he overhauled Tony Cruz-trained pacesetter Wah May Friend (113lb), who was heavily backed into 10/1 late. The margin at the post was a nose.
“I didn’t think we won, I honestly didn’t,” Moreira said. “I thought he was beaten with 50m to go and when we were about to cross the finish line, he started looking at the arch around the post, and it was like he took a step backwards.
“He won because of his size and he’s a big horse, lovely horse, he tries hard and has plenty to come. We have not seen the best of him yet, I’m convinced of that.”
Size indicated that Western Express, who was unbeaten from two starts in Australia as Cardless Cash, was on track to run in next Sunday’s (19 November) G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile before heading to the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile on 10 December.
“He’s a good doer, so I have no concerns about backing him up next weekend,” he said. “It wasn’t a particularly hard run today and he’s hitting peak fitness, so that should only bring him on. We’ll give him his test next weekend under the set weights and if he qualifies, then we’d hope to give him his chance in the Hong Kong Mile.”
Western Express has only one placing to his name at 1600m and beyond from five attempts, but Size believes that the trip holds no fears for the Encosta De Lago gelding.
“On paper, it definitely looks like 1400m is his best trip, he’s four from six now at the distance,” Size said. “I think he can run the mile, he might finish up with a better record at 1400m but you can’t deny him running at 1600m. He deserves his chance again next weekend.” end of left hand side text
Another horse that still has designs on a Hong Kong Mile run is John Moore-trained Booming Delight (133lb), with the handler suggesting that his three and a quarter length seventh should be ignored.
“Sam (Clipperton) came back and said that he was caught wide early and he had to make two runs on him mid-race, so with the big weight and down at 1400m, I think we just have to forget the effort,” Moore said. “I’ve scratched him from the Jockey Club Mile, we’ll still have Beauty Generation, Helene Paragon and Joyful Trinity there. We’ll take Booming Delight straight to the Hong Kong Mile, hopefully.”
Racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night (15 November) before Sha Tin hosts the primary HKIR lead-ups – the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m), the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile (1600m) and the G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) – next Sunday.