Horse Racing
HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup has Moreira taking the season’s view with Bloom

01/09/2017 15:19

by David Morgan

Joao Moreira will side with Seasons Bloom (117lb) in Sunday’s (3 September) opening day feature, the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap (1200m), and the champion jockey is looking for the talented galloper to produce a springboard performance.

Seasons Bloom’s efforts last term earned high rank among Hong Kong’s four-year-olds. Danny Shum’s charge nicked two wins on the bounce before making the frame behind Horse of the Year Rapper Dragon in both the Hong Kong Classic Mile and Hong Kong Classic Cup.

Moreira got his hands on the Captain Sonador gelding’s reins for the first time when Seasons Bloom closed out his debut Sha Tin campaign with a Class 2 score at a mile. That was back in June and the Brazilian was evidently impressed.

“I’m riding him on Sunday because I think he can be a serious horse in the big races this season, even though the distance this weekend looks sharp for him. Looking to the future, the mile races that are coming up, he’ll be a good ride to have,” Moreira said.

Seasons Bloom wins a Class 2 1600m event at Sha Tin in June.
Seasons Bloom wins a Class 2 1600m event at Sha Tin in June.

The three-time champion was not in the plate for Seasons Bloom’s eye-catching barrier trial last Saturday – Nash Rawiller was up top – but, after reviewing the video, he is pleased with what he saw. The five-year-old closed off strongly in the 1000m turf heat, passing the post two lengths third behind Sunday’s rival, the top-weighted Blizzard (133lb).

“I think he trialled well enough to show that he’s going into this race with a chance,” Moreira observed. “It’s a tough race, he’s against horses that are specialists at the distance and he’s not, but he’s going well enough. I galloped him yesterday and he felt good.”

Seasons Bloom has scored once at the distance from two attempts, that win coming in a soft ground maiden at Pakenham in April, 2016. The Australian import’s one course and distance attempt was on Hong Kong debut last November when a sound eighth behind Western Express in Class 3. The smart miler’s lack of toe could be an issue this time, with the Chris So-trained Fabulous One (117lb) and the Me Tsui-trained Shamal (113lb) both keen on-pace gallopers, but, with only seven runners in the field, Moreira does not envisage too many issues arising from a gate four break.

“I don’t see any problems for him in the run, he’s drawn four and I think he’s going to get back anyway. I expect him to be running home, and, if they go fast enough, he may be the one to come and surprise the speed horses,” the rider said.

Seasons Bloom wraps up his 2016/17 campaign with a smart win.

The quality septet also features Magic Legend (118lb) for trainer John Moore and jockey Tommy Berry. The duo will aim to kick-off their new partnership with an early trophy grab.

Magic Legend was a revelation last term, starting out with four wins on the bounce, two at the course and distance, before finishing among the principals in his final three starts of the campaign. Those included a feather-weighted fourth, beaten a length, behind Lucky Year in May’s G3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m). Berry has partnered the four-year-old in his recent work and was aboard for an untested fourth in a recent 1050m dirt barrier trial.

“He trialled well (Tuesday, 29 August), he didn’t have the speed of the other horses over that short trip, although I didn’t ask him either,” Berry said. “He settled in well behind them, I just pulled him out of the kickback at the top of the straight and he cruised to the line quite well. I felt like I had a lot more horse underneath me but he’s a very clean-winded horse, he doesn’t need to do a lot, and we were very pleased with what we saw.

“I think he’s ready for Sunday’s race, although I don’t think there’s any doubt the best is ahead of him. He’s a bit of a nervous horse; I worked him here last week and he gave me a great feel. It’s a strong race on Sunday but he gets in very well at the weights so I expect him to be very competitive. There are a couple of quick horses in the race but we are expecting a big showing from him first-up.”

Completing the line-up in the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap are Tony Millard’s G1-placed Strathmore (113lb) and the Caspar Fownes-trained Southern Legend (113lb), G2-placed in Australia and successful at Happy Valley late last season on only his second Hong Kong start.

Magic Legend (pink silk / white cap) finishes a close fourth in the G3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap over the course and distance in May.
Magic Legend (pink silk / white cap) finishes a close fourth in the G3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap over the course and distance in May.

Whip’s snip

California Whip will carry top-weight of 132lb in the Class 2 Albert Handicap (1400m), race eight on Sunday’s 10-contest card, and jockey Neil Callan is hopeful that the useful four-year-old will have benefited from some post-season minor surgery.

“I think, or I hope anyway, that the gelding operation will do the right thing,” Callan said. “I think it will settle him down a bit and help him to just do a few things better than he has been.”

California Whip was an impressive winner of a 1200m all-weather track Class 3 in January and made the frame in three of his five subsequent races.

“His first season in Hong Kong was very consistent, he won on the dirt but his turf form was as good as that dirt run, so form-wise, he’s held it quite well,” Callan continued. “He hasn’t raced for quite a while but he trialled at the end of last season, he was ready to run on the last day but he didn’t make the field, so he should be pretty fit.”

California Whip notches an impressive Class 3 win on Sha Tin’s all-weather track in January.

Tony Cruz’s charge ran home in midfield behind Fabulous One and Shamal in a 1200m dirt trial on 22 August.

“Whatever he does here, I expect him to improve off it,” Callan opined. “His most recent trial, he trialled well, I’m very happy with him. But there’s nothing better than having race sharpness and fitness so he’ll improve, but I do expect him to run quite a good race. It’s competitive but it’s not overly strong so I hope he can start the season in a good vein of form. He’s drawn a bit wide (gate 12) so like most of Tony’s, we’ll press forward and hope to slot in.”

The 12-runner contest also features last start winners Hang’s Decision (130lb), from the So stable, and the David Hall-trained Solar Hei Hei (127lb).

Emperor aims at two from two

Sunday’s action will also bring the return of an exciting once-raced prospect, Travel Emperor (116lb). The March, 2017 Hong Kong International Sale graduate will aim to protect a perfect record, having impressed with an easy success under Moreira in a Class 4 1000m contest in late June.

Travel Emperor makes a winning Hong Kong debut in a 1000m event at Sha Tin in June.
Travel Emperor makes a winning Hong Kong debut in a 1000m event at Sha Tin in June.

Danny Shum’s charge is slated to attempt 1200m for the first time, and finds himself at the foot of Class 3 in race nine, the Drake Handicap.

“He’s been working even better than he was last season,” said Moreira, who maintains the partnership in Sunday’s penultimate contest. “He’s had that race experience so he’s a little bit more educated, he knows what he’s here for. I did indicate that he’s a very nice horse, a horse with potential and ability and he didn’t let me down in his first race.

“He’s up in class now, and, with a light weight on his back, I think he can deliver a really good run. Winning or not, we’ll have to see what happens, but I’m confident that he’ll be good enough for Class 3.”

Travel Emperor impresses first-up

Hong Kong’s season opener is due to start at 1pm with the Class 4 Harcourt Handicap (1000m) and will conclude at 5.45pm with the Class 3 Garden Road Handicap (1400m).