Super Sunny Sing and Beauty Eternal are the most interesting of the 14 horses chosen for the Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on March 19 at Sha Tin.
Dominant winner of the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) last month, Super Sunny Sing will bid for a fifth successive victory for Chris So when he attempts to add his name to the honour roll of Hong Kong’s most coveted race.
In a field headed by Frankie Lor’s 99-rater Keefy, Beauty Eternal (94) will bid to give 11-time Hong Kong Champion Trainer John Size his fourth Hong Kong Derby success after Fay Fay (2012), Luger (2015) and Ping Hai Star (2018).
Touted as a rising star of Hong Kong’s equine ranks, Beauty Eternal has posted four wins from five starts in his debut season and caught the eye with exceptional acceleration during an arrogant Class 2 victory over 1600m last month.
Size’s contingent is bolstered by the presence of Tuchel, who was second to Voyage Bubble in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) in January, and Sweet Encounter, who won four of his first five starts in Hong Kong.
First contested in 1873, the BMW Hong Kong Derby is restricted to four-year-old runners over 2000 metres. Past winners of the sought-after crown include global superstars River Verdon (1991), Oriental Express (1997), Vengeance Of Rain (2005), Viva Pataca (2006), Ambitious Dragon (2011), Designs On Rome (2014), Werther (2016), Rapper Dragon (2017) and Golden Sixty (2020), while last year’s edition was won by Romantic Warrior for Karis Teetan and Danny Shum.
The first Hong Kong International Sale graduate to win the Hong Kong Derby, Romantic Warrior franked Classic success with subsequent elite victories in the 2022 Group 1 QEII Cup (2000m) and 2022 Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
Joining the winners of the first two legs of the HK$48 million Four-Year-Old Classic Series – Voyage Bubble and Super Sunny Sing – are 12 other quality contenders.
Mr Andrew Harding, The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing, said: “The BMW Hong Kong Derby is one of the most prestigious races on the calendar – a race that every owner aspires to have a runner in, or better still, win. The 2023 edition will continue a remarkable theme of horseracing excellence and achievement in Hong Kong. This year’s race is shaping as yet another remarkable edition with a host of incredible talents sourced from around the world to race for glory with owners and fans alike are looking forward to the contest with eager anticipation.”
Second in the trainers’ championship after a four-timer last Sunday (5 March), Ricky Yiu will saddle Hong Kong Classic Mile winner Voyage Bubble in pursuit of the HK$13.68 million winners’ purse.
Winner of the 2019 BMW Hong Kong Derby with Furore, reigning Hong Kong Champion Trainer Frankie Lor will be represented by Keefy and 89-rater Sword Point, a courageous second in the Hong Kong Classic Cup behind Super Sunny Sing.
Tony Cruz will attempt to enhance a long and glorious BMW Hong Kong Derby history with Beautyverse, who clinched last year’s G1 South Australian Derby (2500m) before posting a striking first-up 1600m win at Sha Tin last November.
Second in the BMW Hong Kong Derby last season with California Spangle, Cruz previously tasted Classic glory in 1983, 1987, 1988 and 1995 as a jockey before further enhancing his standing as a Hong Kong racing colossus with wins as a trainer with Lucky Owners (2004) and Helene Mascot (2008).
Caspar Fownes will press for a third BMW Hong Kong Derby crown with Galaxy Witness and last-start winner Straight Arron after having previously succeeded with Super Satin (2010) and Sky Darci (2021).
Winless since stringing together four successive victories last season, Galaxy Witness finished stoutly for third in the Hong Kong Classic Cup, while Straight Arron caught the eye with a rousing win over 1800m at Sha Tin when making his debut for Fownes on 26 February.
David Hayes tasted glory in the race with Elegant Fashion in 2003, the first filly to land the Classic since Corvette in 1976 and he will aim to do it again with Australian Group 1-placed filly Bon’s A Pearla, while impressive debut winner Flagship Warrior forms a two-pronged assault for the handler.
David Hall will be represented by Atullibigeal, an impressive last-start winner over 1600m who is entered in the Class 2 Lung Kong Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin this Saturday (11 March).
In the midst of a wonderful season after Lucky Sweynesse’s graduation to Group 1 winner in the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m), Manfred Man will saddle Encountered, a dual winner over 1650m at Happy Valley this season.
The race, which is limited to 14 runners, has four reserves: Sinba, La City Blanche, Woodfire Bro and Gallant Waking.