Horse Racing
Lion Rock Trophy could put Champion’s Way on Rapper route to the Derby

31/05/2019 15:43

Champion’s Way notched a five-timer this term.
Champion’s Way notched a five-timer this term.

Champion’s Way could have the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on his agenda next term. Trainer John Size’s exciting young galloper will take the next step along that road in the G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (2 June).

Hong Kong’s blue riband is still nine months and a lot of imponderables away but the rising star has put himself at the forefront of early Derby ruminations with five straight wins of such merit that even a last-start defeat could not shake the view that he is a horse of high-class potential.

And, if the bay wins this weekend, he will join the likes of Silent Witness and Rapper Dragon as a rare three-year-old to win a Hong Kong Group race. Rapper Dragon won the Lion Rock Trophy in 2016 en route to a clean-sweep of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series the following term, including a Derby victory.

“This is going to be his hardest test,” jockey Joao Moreira said, “but he’s been doing things fine. He’s very genuine, he tries his best always and we are going to learn from this race as well – we’ll find out if he’s as good as those good horses.”

Red Warrior ends Champion’s Way’s winning streak.

Champion’s Way’s winning streak ended in Class 2 last time out when his re-opposing stablemate Red Warrior (117lb) charged from deep to best him by a neck. That was the Australian-bred galloper’s first start at a mile but Moreira is confident that the distance is ideal for his mount at this juncture.

“Every time I rode him over 1200 or 1400 metres he indicated that the pace was just too fast for him, he was begging for a little more distance and not such a fast pace,” the Brazilian ace said.

“At this stage he can handle a mile easily, and I’m not going to rule out that he might end up being a 2000-metre horse in future. John Size might have in the back of his mind that he could run in the Derby. I would if I was the trainer.”

Champion’s Way is set to face nine rivals with high-level experience. Size’s charge will break from gate one, rated 102 – 50 points higher than when his career kicked off in January – and with 118lb on his back. Rapper Dragon won this race off a rating of 107 and carried 117lb in defeating top-weight and subsequent G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile hero Beauty Only.

“I honestly think Champion’s Way is a winning chance,” Moreira said. “He has carried big weights in his races and I think the fact that the handicap system gives him a lighter weight this time is going to be a big thing.”

Purton has Brilliant

Simply Brilliant scores at the course and distance earlier this term.
Simply Brilliant scores at the course and distance earlier this term.

Simply Brilliant (133lb) heads the handicap following his third to Beauty Generation in the G1 FWD Champions Mile last time. Champion jockey Zac Purton takes the reins on Frankie Lor’s charge, having been booked for the ride before he partnered rival Good Standing (123lb) to success.

“The horse is very consistent but he carries a big weight this time,” Lor said. “I wanted to freshen him because 1600 metres is a little bit short, that’s why there was no barrier trial for him. He’s in very good form.”

Lor’s Mission Tycoon (119lb) was a big odds winner of the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) in February and took second behind Good Standing in a 1400m Class 1 earlier this month.

“Last time he got an outside draw and used a lot of energy in front,” Lor said. “I think 1600 metres is his best distance. I think Ka Ying Star will lead so it could be similar to the Classic Mile.”

Star on the rise

Ka Ying Star impressed at a mile last time.
Ka Ying Star impressed at a mile last time.

The Tony Cruz-trained Ka Ying Star (122lb) folded to finish third in the Classic Mile and filled the same position in the Classic Cup before failing to stay 2000m in the Derby. He showed his true colours at his last start when making all for an impressive Class 2 win at a mile.

“I just hope it’s not going to be a wet track, good to firm would suit him better. If we have the same kind of going as last time I’ll be very confident about it,” Cruz said of the British import.

“He’s still an improving horse and he’ll be a much better horse next season too, he’s a rising horse and I’m very happy with him. Everything in training since his last run has been very smooth; his trial wasn’t impressive but that’s because the ground was rain-affected – I think he’s fit and ready.”

And the handler confirmed that the plan is to go forward from gate five: “He’ll race like before: he’ll do the same thing.”

Ka Ying Star was a talented handicapper in England last year and Cruz is full of hope that his continuing progression might carry him to the top table and a pop at Beauty Generation next season.

“That’s the intention: Hopefully something like him can challenge,” the trainer said. “He’s really a miler – we tried stretching him but he didn’t get the distance in the Derby.”

The field also includes the Size-trained gallopers Dinozzo (130lb) and Insayshable (123lb), while last start winner Citron Spirit (130lb) takes his place for trainer Ricky Yiu. The talented Pingwu Spark (129lb) takes his chance at a mile again, having placed a solid fourth to subsequent G1-placed Rise High in a Class 1 at the distance in March.

Sunday’s 11-race Sha Tin action starts at 12.15pm with the Class 5 HKU Jockey Club Student Villages Handicap (2000m).