Mirco Demuro is looking forward to piloting Hong Kong speed demon Amber Sky in Sunday’s (23 November) G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) and the ebullient Italian has no qualms about the five-year-old handling the turn or the distance.
Ricky Yiu’s charge is one of the best in the world when it comes to hurtling in a straight line down a 1000m tract of turf, as he emphasised when winning the G1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai last March. He is yet to reproduce that same level over 1200m around a turn, conditions under which he will compete on Sunday.
But then, he has only attempted it twice, latterly in this race 12 months ago when he led the field until fading late to finish three lengths sixth behind the re-opposing Charles The Great. Demuro, who partnered the Exceed And Excel five-year-old in a barrier trial on 11 November, thinks maturity will help him this time.
“To me, he doesn’t have a problem,” said the jockey. “He’s just so quick that when he comes to the turn he’s maybe hanging a little bit but not that much. He’s getting older now so he knows what he has to do. And for me, he can handle the 1200m, that’s not a problem.
“Amber Sky is a horse I like very much. He’s drawn nine and I’m not very happy with that, I’d prefer to draw a little more inside but he’s so quick, so I have to get a good start.”
As for the recent 1200m dirt trial, in which he passed the post a cosy third, Demuro said: “He felt ok in the trial, it was very easy for him, it was comfortable - I eased off him at the end. I didn’t want to make him go too fast, just tried to relax him. I think he will be right there at the finish on Sunday.”
The stellar field of 14 also features Hong Kong’s Champion Sprinter Lucky Nine and Singapore’s unbeaten star Spalato, as well as G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m - Tapeta) victor Sterling City.
Tony Cruz is hoping the race’s youngest contender, Peniaphobia, will show his elders a thing or two. The Dandy Man three-year-old was a precocious juvenile in Britian, winning the Weatherbys Super Sprint, and has won four from nine in Hong Kong, most recently a Class 2 over the distance at Happy Valley.
“Peniaphobia’s owner isn’t too happy with the draw (14),” said Cruz. “But we’ve got Dougie (Whyte) on him and he was drawn 11 at Happy Valley; he was fast out of the gate and able to sit handy. We have to push forward but he has the speed to do it anyway. He’s only three and he’s getting stronger all the time.”
A field of 12 will go to post for the G2 LONGINES Jockey Club Cup (2000m), headed by two Horse of the Year winners, the reigning champion Designs On Rome and his predecessor Military Attack, winner of the HKG2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m) last start.
Cruz is looking for a big run from his old stalwart, eight-year-old California Memory, winner of this race in 2012 as well as back-to-back renewals of the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) in 2011 and 2012.
“California Memory missed the big race in December last year because he got a suspensory injury but this time around I’m very happy with him,” said Cruz. “He’s in good form, he’s been going well and I think he has a good chance on Sunday. He’ll be right there at the finish, I expect he can be in the first four.”
The trainer also has Helene Super Star “he’s an outside chance” and Blazing Speed, winner of the HKG1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and HKG1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) last season.
“I’m very happy with Blazing Speed, he was unlucky last time when he was fourth to Military Attack in the mile race and I expect him to run well. He’ll be going for the Cup next month,” he said.
Meanwhile, the trainer’s other contender Willie Cazals is on the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) trail. The grey was a high-class three-year-old in Italy, splitting Crackerjack King and Danedream when runner-up in the 2011 G2 Derby Italiano (2200m) but has hit snags throughout his Hong Kong career.
The now six-year-old has won one of 13 starts since relocating to Sha Tin and was runner-up in the HKG1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) in May 2013. He was on course for last year’s Vase until injury robbed him of the chance.
“Willie Cazals is in good form now and he’ll go for the Vase after this,” confirmed Cruz. “He’s had two serious tendon injuries and I’m glad to have him come back 100 percent.
“His head was running riot when he first came here from Italy, we had to start like he was a two-year-old all over again. We got him right and then the tendons played up, he’s the quietest horse around nowadays and he’ll run well.”
The field also features 2013 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase hero Dominant and last year’s G2 LONGINES Jockey Club Cup victor Endowing.
The three Jockey Club Races also include the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile, featuring Ambitious Dragon, Gold-Fun, Able Friend and Hana’s Goal. The 11-race card commences at 12.30pm with the To Fung Shan Handicap.