Twelve weeks ago Waikuku was a racehorse with only two races to show for what several good judges felt was an abundance of potential. Five further races and four beguiling wins later, the four-year-old will take his place in Sunday’s (17 March) BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) as the contest’s highest-rated contender.
Waikuku is the first foal of a modest race mare, sired by a talented racehorse but unfashionable stallion whose racing and stud careers were curtailed by injury. He was born and raised on a farm with a rock n’roll connection and is now aiming to give one of Hong Kong’s most famous racing families a first victory in the most coveted race on Sha Tin’s calendar.
John Size, the gelding’s trainer, has plotted a path to the final leg of Sha Tin’s three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series that bears similarity to Ping Hai Star’s march to Derby victory 12 months ago. Both Size gallopers ascended the Hong Kong ratings with a string of closely-packed wins in 1400m handicaps; each avoided legs one and two of the classic fray. A divergence, though, came in Waikuku’s final lead-up as, unlike Ping Hai Star, Size stretched him to 1800m for an impressive score.
The Irish import arrived at that first run beyond 1400m fully seven and a half months after his former trainer John Oxx and his then owner Thomas Breen had considered the very same move.
“I ran him over seven (furlongs) but before we sold him I was wondering where we’d run him next and I was tempted, looking at his pedigree, to stretch him out,” Oxx recalls when contacted by phone at his famous Currabeg Stables in Ireland.