Within the tough sphere of Hong Kong’s Group 3 handicaps, the line-up for Monday’s (1 January) Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1400m) is about as good as it gets.
Helene Paragon (133lb), Beauty Only (132lb), Contentment (131lb) and Peniaphobia (128lb), Group 1 winners all and in full mid-season bloom, give heft to the handicap’s head; Beat The Clock (115lb), Southern Legend (115lb) and Fifty Fifty (113lb), three of Hong Kong’s brightest rising stars, bring a propitious glow to the 12-runner field’s light-weight reaches.
“I think it’s a very nice race, the young horses at the bottom have plenty of ability and they’ve shown that in their last few runs,” said Tommy Berry, who will ride the John Moore-trained Helene Paragon in pursuit of some recompense following a brilliant but futile surge down the Sha Tin straight three weeks ago.
“Helene Paragon’s definitely the best horse in the race but the weight will bring him back to them a bit – he’s going to have to not get too far out of his ground to win.” Berry said at Sha Tin this morning (Friday, 29 December).
Out of his ground was where Helene Paragon found himself in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile on 10 December. By the time Berry was able to engage the two-time G1 winner’s acceleration, stablemate Beauty Generation had stolen a march and the spoils. Helene Paragon blazed through the final 400m in a race-fastest 22.18s to finish third.
“He definitely hasn’t taken any step backwards since his last run and that was a good effort,” Berry said. “He just got too far back and we had to make a run from the back in a race that was run at a slow pace. If it was a strong pace, he’d have gone close to winning.”
Helene Paragon will drop back to 1400m for the first time this term. The Polan entire won last season’s G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup at the course and distance under Berry.
“The big weight, at the 1400, probably just pulled him up a little bit when he tried to do it in the past, so if it was the mile I’d be a little bit more confident. But this bloke has carried weight before and run well,” the stable jockey said.