Tianchi Monster squeezed into Sunday’s (17 March) BMW Hong Kong Derby with a Class 3 handicap win over the 2000m course and distance at the end of last month.
But while trainer Chris So’s galloper is a late gate-crasher to the Four-Year-old Classic Series party, his participation in the HK$18 million has long been the plan.
“From the beginning, when he came in last season, he was rated 74 and the owner wanted to try to go the Derby path. He expected he could be a Derby runner,” the trainer said.
A Derby berth seemed a long way off when the New Zealand Listed winner finished seventh on his seventh Hong Kong start without a win since import. That effort came in a Class 3 over 1800m in early December, off a rating of 68.
“We had to take it step-by-step but he’s got there,” So said.
The son of Shocking stepped up off that defeat to score over 2000m before the turn of the year. A backward step next start when only sixth was banished to irrelevance when Tianchi Monster posted back-to-back wins over 1800m and again at 2000m.
That lifted his rating to 86 and earned him his big race spot. But he is still 22lb behind top-rated Waikuku.