Sha Tin Racecourse stages the final Pattern race of the 2017/18 season on Sunday with the Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) being the second of two Group 3 contests on a cracking 10-race card.
Karis Teetan will partner California Whip for the first time, with the Tony Cruz-trained gelding rated seventh of eight in the handicap and allotted a featherweight 114lb.
“The horse is very good at 1400 metres and he has a nice low weight on his back so it looks like he’s going in with a nice chance,” the Mauritian ace said at Sha Tin this morning (Friday, 22 June).
The five-year-old saw off Racing Supernova to score at the course and distance under Neil Callan last time. That was in Class 1 and the victory saw him raised six points to a peak rating of 104.
“His last run was good and he has plenty of experience behind him, so although he’s up in the ratings he’s one of the main contenders in the race,” Teetan said.
Cruz will also saddle Winner’s Way (130lb), the mount of championship leader Zac Purton who steered the five-year-old to a length success over the re-opposing Born In China (121lb) in last month’s G3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m).
“Both of mine have big chances,” the handler said. “California Whip is in top form, he should love any give in the ground if we do get rain and the 1400m is his pet distance. But I just like Winner’s Way, he won well at 1200 metres last time and 1400 is no problem to him.”
With Royal Ascot the main focus in the horseracing world this week, it is worth recalling Born In China’s victory at the meeting in the 2014 Britannia Handicap (1600m) when known as Born In Bombay. The Shamardal seven-year-old has won four of 23 starts in Hong Kong and heads into the Premier Cup in fine fettle according to trainer Francis Lui.
“Born In China ran well in his last race and he has a good fighting heart,” he said. “He will like any rain in the ground and he has a chance, he’s in good form at the moment.”
Lui will also saddle stable star Lucky Bubbles (130lb). Last year’s G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) winner has performed below par in three runs since the turn-of-the-year and was last of eight behind Winner’s Way last time.
“After the last run we found that he had a little problem with his soft palate, so hopefully that will not trouble him this time,” he said.
Lucky Bubbles has only twice ventured beyond 1200m in his 25-race career - third at the course and distance in Class 1 back in December, 2015, and fourth in the 2016 Hong Kong Classic Mile.
“It’s hard to say how he will perform because it’s his first time at 1400m for a long time, but if you look at his last run it seemed that he didn’t have the gate speed. This is a find-out race in some ways,” Lui said.
Joao Moreira, five wins down in the premiership race with Purton, will partner last year’s impressive Premier Cup winner Thewizardofoz (133lb), a horse that has rarely been able to deliver on his undoubted promise. John Size’s six-year-old was a solid fourth in the Sha Tin Vase last time.
The Frankie Lor-trained Dundonnell (120lb), Joyful Trinity (116lb) from the Caspar Fownes stable, and the John Moore-trained Magic Legend (113lb) complete the line-up for the race, which is due off at 4.05pm.
The day’s other G3 feature, the Premier Plate Handicap (1800m), is scheduled for 2pm. The field of eight includes Exultant (133lb) and Gold Mount (133lb), second and third to Pakistan Star in the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) last month.
California Whip (blue outside), picture Hong Kong Jockey Club