Alexis Badel is optimistic Tourbillon Diamond can trade on proven stamina reserves to contend strongly in the HKD$12 million Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (May 22) after an excellent last-start effort.
Third in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick Racecourse in April, 2020 when known as Eric The Eel, Tourbillon Diamond has won twice in Hong Kong for Danny Shum and was most recently second to Romantic Warrior in the Group 1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on April 24.
“It was a great performance from the horse,” Badel said of Tourbillon Diamond's last run. “I believe the draw (barrier two) helped me because I was in the right spot on the inside, saving a lot of ground, and I was lucky enough to find a way out in the straight.
“I am confident the (2400m) trip shouldn't be an issue because he has done this in the past. I will start from a good gate (four) so it's going to help me to put him in the right spot and relax him.”
Tourbillon Diamond's best win so far in Hong Kong materialised in the Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies' Purse Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin on November 7 last year.
The son of Olympic Glory will vie with last year's Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup winner Panfield and fellow Group 1 victor Russian Emperor and several other contenders on Sunday.
Blake Shinn is hopeful Russian Emperor can stay 2400m despite his sixth in the race last year.
“I'm pretty optimistic – we've got the blinkers off him, so if it's a slowly run race, which it's debatable whether it will be, the blinkers off will give him every chance and I think he'll settle no problem, and he's got a great turn of foot,” Shinn said.
“If it's a fast-run race, from the barrier we're probably going to go back from nine. If it's a fast-run race, I'm not really sure. All I know is that the horse is primed and ready and may the best horse win.”
Armed with a phenomenal record in the Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m), Tony Cruz is not expecting to add to his imposing list of winners in the feature on Sunday – but nevertheless is hoping for an upset.
Cruz, who has saddled seven of the past nine winners of the staying test, will be represented in this year's edition by Ka Ying Star, who will be ridden by Luke Ferraris.
Despite posting only two wins across the past three seasons, Ka Ying Star has performed respectably at Group 1 level this season with a second to Wellington in the Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) followed by a courageous fourth behind Romantic Warrior in the Group 1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) when he figured in a photo-finish with Panfield (third), ahead of Russian Emperor, Columbus County, Zebrowski and Reliable Team – all rivals again on Sunday.
Those glimpses of form leave Cruz to expect the veteran to push for a top-four place.
“I would be very surprised if he won, but I believe he can run in the top four,” Cruz said. “He always gives his best but, if he can run in the top four, I'll be happy.”
After sharing a dead-heat in the race in 1995 as a jockey aboard Makarpura Star along with Greg Childs and Survey King – both horses were trained by John Moore – Cruz has dominated the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup as a trainer.
Igniting an unmatched sequence in 2013 with California Memory and Matthew Chadwick, Cruz exerted an iron rule over the race with the subsequent successes of Blazing Speed (Neil Callan) in 2014, Helene Super Star (Douglas Whyte) in 2015 and Blazing Speed (Callan) in 2016 before John Moore interceded with Werther and Hugh Bowman in 2017.
A second Cruz dynasty unfolded in 2018 with Pakistan Star's win under Tommy Berry before Zac Purton and Exultant notched successive wins in 2019-20. Tony Millard and Karis Teetan ended the run with Panfield last year.
David Hayes hopes a significant weight drop and a possible lack of early pressure will allow Nervous Witness to showcase his best in the Group 3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m) under Vagner Borges.
“He goes from 133lb to 113lb and, instead of being taken on with a big weight, he might get an uncontested lead here,” the dual champion Hong Kong trainer. “We'll jump him out and see what happens.
“He's gone from 52 to 100 in the ratings very quickly, he's never been out of a place (four wins and four minor placings from eight starts), so we'll see how tough he is this weekend. I've got a feeling he'll be better at 1200m around a bend than at 1000m.”
Hayes will also saddle Super Wealthy in the feature sprint. To be ridden by Zac Purton, the speedster finished fourth behind Wellington in the Group 1 FWD Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m) at his last outing on April 24.
“If there's too much speed, Super Wealthy will come home pretty hard. He's drawn awkwardly (in gate nine), so he'll go back and he's in terrific form. Arguably, he could have run second to Wellington.”