Joao Moreira has unshakeable faith in Sky Darci’s ability to cope with various contingencies as the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner resumes in the Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (26 September).
Facing eight quality rivals in the first Group race of the 2021/22 Hong Kong season, Moreira suspects Sky Darci’s premium distance is 1600m but is trading on the five-year-old’s versatility and competitive nature to hold sway.
“He’s trialled not so long ago (14 September) and he gave me such a good feel. I think things are looking good to go back to the races,” the Brazilian said. “I don’t mind about the distance at all – he has won at 1200, 1400, a mile and 2000 – so he seems to be a versatile horse.
“Even though 1400 might not be his best distance, he’s got a fresh pair of legs at the moment, so I think he’s going to deliver his best – I think he’s going to do very well this season. He’s one of those horses you get very excited about.”
Douglas Whyte is daring to dream with Hong Kong Derby runner-up Russian Emperor, who resumes from the outside of the field (barrier nine) under Jerry Chau.
“You like to think (LONGINES Hong Kong) internationals,” the 13-time champion jockey responded when asked about the four-year-old’s overall campaign goal. “You like to think big with a horse like him, but he’s got to step up. If he runs a creditable race, he’ll be in with a shot going towards bigger races this season.
“The weight (113lb) is going to be beneficial, the distance is a query. He’s certainly going out to do his best, but he hasn’t raced for a long time. He needs to get back into competition, back into the racing mentality of things. It’s a good place to start him off.
“We all know what he did in the Derby. He ran a fantastic race. He’s been gelded since, so we’re looking forward to the season.
“His temperament has certainly changed significantly in the yard. He was starting to get coltish and he was starting to get thick in his wind.”
Danny Shum holds modest expectations for Tourbillon Diamond, who starts from barrier one for Alexis Badel.
“He’s good but it’s too strong a field for him,” Shum said. “He’s got a good draw. Hopefully he can start well, last time he missed the start. Hopefully this time he can jump good and be midfield and finish well.”
Longer-term, Shum will focus on races of similar distance.
“He’ll concentrate on this trip (1400m) and the mile. If it’s too long, I don’t think he can handle it. We’ll take it race by race with him,” he said.
While Sky Darci’s seasonal return will occupy much of Moreira’s energies on Sunday, the four-time champion jockey is also focused heavily on Killer Bee’s clash with Naboo Attack in the Class 2 Cheung Hong Handicap (1200m).
Ideally drawn in gate five, Killer Bee will receive 11lb from the hulking Naboo Attack (133lb), who starts from gate nine for Zac Purton.
“He (Naboo Attack) should be the favourite and he’s going to have to sweat blood to beat Killer Bee. Killer Bee is a good horse as well. I’m glad to be sitting on one of the best horses,” Moreira said.
“He’s a horse that’s shown a lot of ability. All of the things he did last season, gets us very excited.
“His preparation has been good. He’s more mature than last season. He’s pretty fit to go back to the races and I would be very, very surprised if he goes there and runs a bad race.
Frankie Lor will parade a pair of New Zealand imports – Ready To Win and Five Elements – on the programme undercard.
Ready To Win contests the Class 3 Fuk Loi Handicap (1200m, dirt) under Matthew Poon.
“He’s looks quite good and he trialled quite good on the dirt. He can be a little bit keen, so 1200 (metres) at this moment is good for him. He’s got a good draw, he can follow the pace. I hope he can have a good result,” Lor said.
Five Elements, who won at Group 2 level when known as Stormy for Tony Pike in New Zealand, will be partnered by Moreira in the Class 3 Fu Tai Handicap (1200m) after being allowed to slowly acclimatise by Lor.
“This horse when he came to Hong Kong was only a two-year-old. This season he is better. I think he has got ability, we can know after Sunday,” the trainer said.
Last season’s Champion Stayer of Hong Kong, Panfield continued his strong build-up towards a race return in the Group 2 Oriental Watch 60th Anniversary Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) on 17 October with a resounding trial win under Karis Teetan over 1700m at Happy Valley this morning (Friday 24 September).
Unbeaten four-year-old Fantastic Treasure also caught the eye this morning with an easy fourth over 1000m for Chad Schofield behind Victory Scholars.