The 2017 BMW Hong Kong Derby shapes as one of the deepest editions of the HK$18 million feature in recent years, so barriers were always going to be crucial with the tough 2000m course at Sha Tin awaiting 14 four-year-olds on Sunday. Some were delighted and others were stoic after the barrier draw for the four-year-old classic in the Sha Tin parade ring on Thursday morning (16 March).
For connections of Rapper Dragon, aiming to make a clean sweep of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series after victories in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), there were smiles all around as owner Albert Hung drew a plum gate in four, prompting a grin from raceday partner Joao Moreira and excitement from trainer John Moore.
“The owner of Rapper Dragon asked me what gate I wanted, I said four to six,” Moore said. “He got four, it couldn’t be better for him. We all know Rapper Dragon has the early gate speed, he’s going to get a great position and he’s going to be given every chance from there.”
Otherwise, Moore was circumspect about the draw, which handed his other five runners gates of seven (Rodrico), nine (Booming Delight), 10 (Eagle Way), 12 (Beauty Generation) and 14 (Helene Charisma).
“It’s mixed feelings,” the trainer said. “Some are a little on the wide side, although for some of them, it doesn’t matter. A horse like Eagle Way, he settled midfield from a similar gate in the Queensland Derby and came home strong. Helene Charisma, he will be going back anyway and he will appreciate further, as will Rodrico.
“Rodrico will probably push forward from the middle of the pack, he did that in Australia. We won’t be going as far forward on Beauty Generation, though, he got engaged in a speed duel last time and it didn’t work. From 12, I’d expect Zac (Purton) will be midfield, one or two off the fence, and waiting for the mid-race swoop that tends to come down the back straight each year.”
Guests and horse connections attend the barrier draw ceremony, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
For Tony Cruz, who saddles up three runners, it was also a mixed bag, with Gold Mount (eight), Circuit Hassler (11) and Pakistan Star (13) all drawing outside gates.
“Gold Mount is smack in the middle in gate eight, so he has a good chance, I’m happy with that,” Cruz said. “Pakistan Star, he’s got no speed from the gate, so where can we go with him? He’ll come from behind, so 13 is not a problem. We’ll drop in with him and he’ll run on. He’ll run the way he always likes to. We tried to ride him handier that once in the Classic Mile and he didn’t even finish off his race. The distance, 2000 metres, will suit him better this time, too. As for Circuit Hassler, I don’t think he will be leading the race; he’ll be handier, but not leading.”
One man who was happy with the draw was trainer John Size after his three hopes drew two (Dinozzo), three (Prawn Baba) and six (My Darling).
“They’ve all drawn well, towards the inside,” Size said. “Hopefully the inside is a fair spot to be. It’s suitable for all of those horses, anyway. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of speed in the race or pressure so if My Darling doesn’t lead the race, he’ll be very close to it from there.”
Classic Mile and Classic Cup placegetter Seasons Bloom is also drawn well in gate one, although trainer Danny Shum said it could prove both a blessing and a curse.
“It’s fifty-fifty, I think,” he said. “It’s a good draw in the sense that you save the ground but then it can be a disadvantage because on the A track they will all come from behind on the outside. I think Nash (Rawiller) has to find a way through, otherwise it will be difficult.”
Peter Ho trainee Limitless, drawn in gate five, completes the field. He will be ridden by Neil Callan.
The BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) will jump as race eight on the 10-event card at Sha Tin on Sunday, with post time scheduled for 4:35pm.