Helene Paragon is one of three Group 1 winners declared for a particularly high-class running of the Class 1 Ambitious Dragon Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on BMW Hong Kong Derby Day on Sunday.
The Polan five-year-old is one of the stars of the season so far and heads into the weekend off the back of a G1 brace in the Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m). The John Moore-trained galloper heads the weights with a 133lb impost following the scratching this morning (Friday, 17 March) of stablemate Able Friend due to lameness in the former Horse of the Year’s off-fore.
“Even though he’s carrying 133 pounds, Helene Paragon, he just doesn’t know how to get beaten. The way he worked, he will not give up. He has a stiff task at the weights but he’s got such a lot of class,” Moore said.
And the handler will also saddle the ultra-consistent Invincible Dragon (113lb), the mount of Joao Moreira, alongside the course and distance specialist Dashing Fellow (114lb).
Invincible Dragon has risen to a mark of 107 from a start of season rating of 86. That elevation is thanks to a record of three wins and two seconds from his five outings and Moore believes there could still be a little more improvement in the five-year-old.
“Invincible Dragon will carry 115 pounds with Joao’s allowable over-weight and he’s the horse to beat,” Moore said. “He’s the in-form horse, he’s done nothing wrong and he has the light weight. He has to be the pick of them and there’s probably some more to come.”
The Invincible Spirit gelding impressed at the course and distance last time with a win in the Hong Kong Macau Trophy; three and a quarter lengths behind him in fifth was Dashing Fellow, who had to concede 8lb.
“From a handicapper’s point of view, you’d have to think it’s going to be between the two at the bottom,” Moore continued. “Dashing Fellow is going to run a good race because if he gets a soft lead, of course he’s going to kick hard. He wasn’t too far away the other day off top-weight.
“But, like I said, Helene Paragon will fight it out with them, that’s for sure. He’s a war horse that Spanish horse.”
The field also features the Size-trained Contentment, winner of the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) in 2016, the same trainer’s Sun Jewellery, last season’s Champion Miler, and the Tony Cruz-trained Giant Treasure, successful in last season’s G1 Stewards’ Cup.
Able Friend underwent an MRI scan this morning in an attempt to ascertain the reason for lameness in his off-fore.
Sunday’s feature is the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), in which Rapper Dragon will attempt to become the first horse to complete a cleansweep of all three races in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
Helene Paragon, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club