A hot finale to Sunday’s 10-race card at Sha Tin has attracted a talent-packed field of 14 - some proven, some burgeoning and some on breakthrough’s cusp. Nassa (121lb) fits into the last category and jockey Karis Teetan is hopeful that the classy South African import can springboard to victory off the back of a pair of eye-catching initiatory efforts, despite drawing an awkward gate.
“His two runs here in Hong Kong have been very good - he’s had a bad draw for both of those races and now he has a bad draw again but we have to deal with it. If I get a good run, he’s a really smart horse and he’s going to run to the line,” Teetan said of the Tony Millard-trained four-year-old, who will break from barrier 11 in the Class 2 Lotus Handicap (1600m).
The Dynasty gelding has two wins to his name from six starts in South Africa, that brace preceding a pair of high-class performances when third, beaten less than a length, in both the G2 Selangor Cup (1600m) and G1 Cape Guineas (1600m).
Nassa finished strongly to claim fourth place last start, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Nassa has given a couple of big hints at that latent ability since his arrival at Sha Tin, flashing home to seventh over 1400m first-up with a race-fastest closing 400m split of 22.35s, and then repeating the feat from gate 13 in a course and distance Class 2 contest with a singeing final sectional of 22.05s to claim fourth behind the re-opposing Eastern Express (133lb), Booming Delight (131lb) and Doyeni (122lb). Nassa is 7lb and 4lb better off with the first two for finishing a little more than two lengths behind.
“His last run was very good - he had about six lengths to make up on the first few horses and he was really flying home, he ran to the line in 22.05s, so that was fast,” Teetan said. “We know he has class, he went close in the Cape Guineas back in South Africa, so if things go his way on Sunday he’s definitely a chance.”
And the bay has done well since that last start, according to the Mauritian ace.
“He’s been working very well,” he said, “he’s coming good at the right time. He has a lot of ability and he’s a nice horse going forward. Tony has him spot-on, I just hope he can get a good run in the race and I’m pretty sure he’ll be hitting the line strongly. He’s a lovely horse.”
Booming Delight, with three Hong Kong wins on the board from seven starts, is certainly one of the race’s burgeoning talents. The Fastnet Rock gelding has failed to make the frame only once this term - when eighth in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) - and regular partner Sam Clipperton is expecting to at least turn around the form with his last start conqueror, Eastern Express.
“His last run was his first since the Derby and it was full of merit, he’d had a quiet time in between those two runs, so he probably had a lot of improvement going into that race and he went down fighting to Eastern Express by a short-head,” Clipperton said of the John Moore trainee, a full-brother to G1 Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet.
“In his work, the horse has taken a lot of improvement since that run and I’m very happy with how he’s going at home. I think he’ll prove very hard to beat on Sunday. He’s a horse that I’ve got a lot of time for and obviously he’s got his fair share of ability; he’s definitely a horse to watch for the future.”
The Australian rider is under no illusions, though, about the stiffness of Sunday’s task, against a field that also features the Danny Shum-trained Seasons Bloom (133lb), runner-up to Rapper Dragon in the Hong Kong Classic Mile back in January.
“Booming Delight’s in quite a tough race,” he said. “I’ve had a good partnership with Jolly Jolly (120lb) and he looks to be one of the main chances too, and there’s Seasons Bloom and the horse that beat us last start, Eastern Express. It’s a very competitive Class 2 event, so tactics will play a big role.”
Booming Delight completed a hat-trick of wins three starts back, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club