History will be made in Sunday’s Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m), regardless of the result, when the Ralph Beckett-trained Chemical Charge flies the flag for Great Britain in the HK$10 million feature.
Chemical Charge will be the first international galloper to tackle Sha Tin’s second top-flight mile and a half feature of the season. In the first, December’s LONGINES Hong Kong Vase, Chemical Charge outran his 87/1 starting price in finishing fourth, almost three lengths from Highland Reel; on that occasion, he was merely a length behind the runner-up, Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Talismanic.
“We were pretty sure Sha Tin and the style of racing would suit him before he went in December and he ran very well,” Beckett said from his Kimpton Down Stables in Hampshire. “I am hopeful that will happen again. I am very happy with the horse and confident of a big show because the track and the way the races are run there clearly suit him. He is definitely better going right-handed on a flat track.”
It appears a shrewd move on the part of Beckett and owners Qatar Racing. The strength of Hong Kong’s horse population has traditionally centred amongst the sprinters and milers, with a limited number of high-class races beyond 2000m. In the Hong Kong Vase, which attracts strong international competition each year, the home team has been successful only twice from 24 runnings, with Indigenous (1998) and Dominant (2013).
Add in that the Champions & Chater Cup generally comes at the end of a long season for the local gallopers – a factor that has been given as an excuse for beaten favourites like Vengeance Of Rain, Viva Pataca, Designs On Rome and Werther – and it is clear that Chemical Charge arrives with strong claims for the final G1 of the Hong Kong season.
“It is going to be a small field and whether or not that will suit us, time will tell, but it does mean we pick up a large cheque,” Beckett said. “We are all set for Sunday and looking forward to the race.”
Chemical Charge exercises at Sha Tin on Thursday morning, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Chemical Charge’s strong Hong Kong effort in December capped a 2017 season in which he scored three victories, including a first Group win in the G3 September Stakes (2400m) on the Kempton Polytrack. He was also third to Idaho in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes (2400m) at Royal Ascot.
He has raced only once in 2018, finishing ninth in Doha last start in the Emirs Trophy (2400m), a Qatari G1. That February day, he was in the ruck beyond midfield, unable to make any impression. However, David Redvers, racing manager for Qatar Racing, said that he has taken no harm from the run and enters Sunday’s race in tip-top shape.
“All has been good with Chemical Charge since his last run in Qatar and we are very optimistic of a big run on Sunday,” Redvers said. “He travelled over brilliantly and is in very, very good form. He has settled in very well in Hong Kong and is really in the pink at the moment.”
Chemical Charge, who arrived in Hong Kong last Sunday night (20 May), has not been asked for much on the training track this week, completing a leisurely lap of the Sha Tin all-weather track under exercise rider Sam Kite the last two mornings.
Qatar Racing’s retained rider Oisin Murphy, who spent the winter in Hong Kong last season and rode Chemical Charge in December, will once again take the mount on the six-year-old on Sunday. The son of Sea The Stars is one of four rides for Murphy on the Sha Tin card.
The home team is headed by the Tony Cruz-trained Pakistan Star, a runaway winner of the G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) at his most recent outing, as well as his stablemates Gold Mount, second in the QEII, and Exultant, a last-start victor of the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap at the course and distance. The John Moore-trained Eagle Way completes the line-up.
The Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup is the eighth of 11 races on the Sha Tin card and is set to jump at 4.05pm. The opener, the Liberator Plate (1200m) for griffins, will start the meeting at 12.30pm.