Caspar Fownes-trained Sky Darci heads 14 selected runners for the HK$24 million BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, 21 March.
Commanding top-rating for the coveted Classic, Sky Darci will bid to lodge a sixth victory in Hong Kong and, in the process, join the cavalcade of equine stars to have annexed the showpiece staying test.
The Hong Kong Derby was first contested in 1873 and is restricted to four-year-olds over 2000 metres. Past winners since 2000 include globally respected champions Vengeance Of Rain (2005), Viva Pataca (2006), Ambitious Dragon (2011), Designs On Rome (2014), Werther (2016), Rapper Dragon (2017) and Golden Sixty (2020).
The winners of the first two legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series – Excellent Proposal (101) who triumphed in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and Healthy Happy (101), who lifted the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) – are prominent among the entries.
Mr. Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing, said: “The BMW Hong Kong Derby has always been a focal point in the racing season – a once-in-a-lifetime challenge that every owner aspires to take part in. The 2021 renewal will provide yet another chapter to an enduring story of excellence and achievement. Without an overwhelmingly dominant favourite, this year’s race shapes as one of the most intriguing in recent memory.
“Golden Sixty was the outstanding performer of 2020 but with form lines stretching from the Epsom Derby to the Australian Derby, this year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby is again one that owners and fans alike are looking forward to with eager anticipation.”
Sky Darci (103), winner of the Class 1 Chevalier Cup Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin last November, could face two Group 1 winners – Shadow Hero (100) and Panfield (90) – and two Group 1 placegetters – Tourbillon Diamond (98) and Congratulation (89).
There is a Group 3 winner – Russian Emperor (97) – along with two Listed victors – Packing Waltham (85) and Maximus (85).
Championship-leading trainer John Size has three entries among the selections – Excellent Proposal, Lucky Express (97) and Silver Express (89).
The Australian horseman, bidding for a 12th trainers’ championship, will chase a fourth Derby crown after previous successes with Fay Fay (2012), Luger (2015) and Ping Hai Star (2018).
Frankie Lor will bid for a second Derby title with Healthy Happy, who will attempt to emulate Furore (2019), while David Hayes will saddle Shadow Hero and Conqueror (86). Hayes last won the Derby with Elegant Fashion (2003) which became the first filly to land the Classic since Corvette in 1976.
Tony Millard is also double-handed with Panfield and Maximus as the South African seeks a third Derby triumph after successes with Keen Winner (2000) and Ambitious Dragon (2011).
Tony Cruz, who has tasted Derby joy six times combined as a trainer and jockey, has Delightful Laos (88) and Packing Waltham (85).
Danny Shum will look to enhance an excellent season with Tourbillon Diamond, who ran third in the 2020 Grou 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick Racecourse, Sydney.
Douglas Whyte is represented by Irish-bred British Group 3 winner Russian Emperor, who ran seventh in the Group 1 Derby Stakes (2405m) at Epsom Downs Racecourse in Great Britain, and Congratulation.
The race, which is limited to 14 runners, has five reserves: Flagship Glory (84), Berlin Tango (86), Arthur’s Kingdom (85), Super Football (83) and Savaquin (82).