Horse Racing
Heavyweight cast poised to come out swinging for Centenary Vase

By Graham Cunningham
25/01/2019 16:59

Glorious Forever dominates in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup.
Glorious Forever dominates in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup.

It would be hard to ask for more from a G3 handicap than this Sunday’s (27 January) Centenary Vase (1800m).

How about three different G1 winners including two fresh from thrilling LONGINES Hong Kong International Races successes? No problem.

Two bold front-running siblings set to trade powerful blows in round four of a bruising brotherly battle? Check.

One high-class stayer who turned away travelling stars from Japan, Britain, Ireland and France to give the home team a famous G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase victory? He’s there with Zac Purton aboard.

And a John Size duo comprising last year’s winner and a bang-in-form gelding carrying a feather weight with Joao Moreira up? Yes and yes again.

The stakes are high for a HK$3.25 million showdown and Frankie Lor knows tactics could play a huge role as his pillar-to-post LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) hero Glorious Forever goes up against older brother Time Warp for the fourth time in 12 weeks.

“I don’t want a head to head,” sums up Lor’s approach to the early stages, a conviction which harks back to a punishing early duel in the Jockey Club Cup which saw Glorious Forever win the battle with Time Warp only to lose the war as Eagle Way and Exultant swept by.

The form book shows that each of Time Warp’s six Hong Kong wins have been gained in all-the-way fashion, while Glorious Forever has gained three of his four wins from the front and dominated throughout (with Time Warp back in third) when capturing his first G1 success under Silvestre de Sousa in last month’s Hong Kong Cup.

However, Lor takes confidence from the fact that Glorious Forever came from just off the pace when seizing Time Warp’s 2000m track record last July and is happy for de Sousa to adopt slightly more patient tactics again if the early pace is fiery.

“If they both try to go to the front they are finished but if we can’t get to the front early on then second is ok,” he added. “Glorious Forever’s form is good. His last trial was also strong and to me it looks like he is still improving.”

Purton bids to pounce on Exultant

Exultant (in black) outstays his Hong Kong Vase rivals.
Exultant (in black) outstays his Hong Kong Vase rivals.

It takes a lot for a top rider to desert a partner who has carried him to victory in some of Hong Kong’s biggest races but champion jockey Zac Purton has decided to opt for the stamina of Exultant over the freewheeling speed of Time Warp.

“I just feel Time Warp’s probably not at his best at the moment,” he said. “I think he’s at the crossroads a little bit, especially with these younger horses coming through.”

Exultant is one of those younger horses and, having been gradually brought to a peak over shorter trips by Tony Cruz, the five-year-old moved up to 2400m and got the better of an epic battle with star Japanese filly Lys Gracieux in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase last month.

 “When Exultant first came to Hong Kong he was over-racing and doing a lot wrong and the emphasis on making him relax meant he got a long way behind in his races,” said Purton.

The step up to 2400m helped Exultant race more prominently in the Vase and Purton is hoping for a searching pace to bring his partner’s strength into play on Sunday.

“It depends on the circumstances of the race,” he added. “If it’s a genuinely-run race it becomes more of a staying test and that allows him to give himself a chance.

“But I do think Exultant has taken it to a new level this season. He’s come through his win in the Vase well. He’s trialled well twice on the dirt over an inadequate trip and if they go a good gallop I think he can run well.”

Ho hoping Time Warp can get back on the rails

Time Warp (in red) wins the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse under Zac Purton.
Time Warp (in red) wins the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse under Zac Purton.

Purton’s preference for Exultant opens the door for Vincent Ho to take his excellent season to another level aboard Time Warp and the in-form rider describes the chance to ride one of Hong Kong’s most high-profile horses for the first time as “a great opportunity.”

Fourth in the jockeys’ table with 27 winners and firmly on course for his best season, Ho has another big date on Ka Ying Star in Sunday’s Hong Kong Classic Mile and feels stall three is a plus as Time Warp returns to the distance of his latest success in the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap in November.

“I’ve got a pretty good draw so I hope I can get the rail and dictate the pace,” he said. “This is a very tough field and Time Warp was a bit disappointing at Happy Valley last time but he’s won some very good races.

“The record says he and Glorious Forever both need to lead but I’m not sure about that. I’ll wait and see what Mr Cruz says but it’s great to get the ride and it’s going to be a very interesting contest.”

Insayshable had Time Warp just behind when the pair finished third and fourth in the January Cup at Happy Valley recently and is the choice of Joao Moreira. Dinozzo won this race 12 months ago but is winless in 13 subsequent runs.

Last year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby runner-up Singapore Sling steps up to 1800m for the first time since his win in last year’s Hong Kong Classic Cup, while the nine-runner field for Sunday’s contest is completed by giant grey Pingwu Spark, who tries 1800m for the first time, along with veterans Romantic Touch and Horse Of Fortune.

Sunday’s 10-race card, which also features the HK$10 million Hong Kong Classic Mile, gets under way at 1pm with the Class 4 Hung Shui Kiu Handicap (2000m).