Group 1 stars Beauty Only, Mr Stunning, Peniaphobia and Contentment will step out for the first time this term at Sunday’s (1 October) National Day race meeting at Sha Tin Racecourse.
Hong Kong’s 2017/18 Group race programme kicks off with twin features, the G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) and the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m).
Champion Miler Beauty Only is slated to carry top-weight in the latter as he steps out for the first time since running a game sixth in the G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) at Tokyo in June.
Tony Cruz’s charge warmed up for his season’s return with a smart effort under Zac Purton in a 1600m turf barrier trial on 19 September. The six-year-old settled last in the five-runner batch, as stablemate Giant Treasure set a solid tempo, and closed past runners in the stretch to cross the line in front.
“His trial was very good,” Cruz said. “The other horses in the trial weren’t top fit yet, but it was a good trial and that will have brought him on. After that, I think he’ll be close to his peak fitness, but it’s going to be tough when you look at the handicap. He’ll carry 133 pounds, so he’s giving away a lot of weight to most of the field.”
Despite that weighty impost, the trainer believes last year’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile winner will acquit himself well in his first competitive step towards defending that title on 10 December. The Holy Roman Emperor gelding was second to Joyful Trinity in last year’s Celebration Cup, carrying 132lb.
“We know how good he is and I still think he will run a big race – he can be in the first four or five,” Cruz said. “But the important thing is that he’s done well since he came back from Japan. He put on a whole lot of weight after that – he’s a good doer, he’s healthy, he has a good appetite and he’s a strongly-built horse.”