Delivering on lofty pre-race expectations with convincing victory in the HK$13 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, Helios Express will next attempt to emulate Golden Sixty with success in the HK$13 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on March 3.
Golden Sixty (2020) and Rapper Dragon (2017) stand alone as the only horses to sweep the series with victory in all three legs, culminating in Hong Kong Derby (2000m) success, and Size hopes Helios Express can continue a blazing ascent after showcasing unmistakable talent with his fifth win from seven Hong Kong starts.
By Toronado, Helios Express provided Size with his fourth Hong Kong Classic Mile win after Sun Jewellery (2016) – who also snared the Hong Kong Classic Cup – Nothingilikemore (2018) and Excellent Proposal (2021), while Hugh Bowman slotted his first Hong Kong Classic Mile victory since Furore in 2019.
Given a patient ride by Bowman behind a moderate pace set by Chancheng Glory, Helios Express forged into clear running over the final 400m to down Helene Feeling by 1.75-lengths, while Star Mac charged from the rear of the field to be third, a further neck back. Speed Dragon, who struggled for clear running late, finished fourth.
Acknowledging the soft tempo and an overall time of 1:34.44, Size has no doubts over Helios Express' class after the gelding stamped telling authority.
“It was a slow run race and he was able to adapt to a very slow tempo, which is a good thing in a racehorse. He was able to overcome that and still win the race,” Size said. “Of this generation of horses, he seems to be the quality horse amongst the ones he's competing against, and it was a very convincing win.”
Size confirmed plans to head to the Hong Kong Classic Cup and is confident in Helios Express' adaptability.
“There's always some concern (about the step up in distance) because the circumstances of the races can change dramatically from one race to the next. The good horses overcome a different style of running and they win. He has to do that – he has that in front of him.
“It's always very exciting, and a bit of a relief actually to have another good horse come along. You look forward to it and hope it happens. You can't design the stable to achieve that, but it's always gratifying to see another good horse come along in this age group, and hopefully he has a good career.”
Bowman said: “The critical side of me says I would have liked for him (Helios Express) to settle a bit better in the run but it was a very sedate tempo which encouraged him to travel the way he did – but that's the sign of an exceptional horse – and when I gave him room and asked him for an effort, that's exactly what we all saw. I'm excited to be riding such a magnificent individual.”