By David Morgan
Hong Kong stages the season’s first Pattern race contests on National Day, Saturday, 1 October, when a brace of Group 3 features will take centre stage: the National Day Cup (1000m) offers a tantalising head-to-head between Peniaphobia and Not Listenin’tome, while the Celebration Cup (1400m) has attracted a field replete with quality.
Among the leading contenders for the Celebration Cup (Handicap) is the John Moore-trained Joyful Trinity, a short-head second on his season’s return last start and the mount of Joao Moreira. Moore and Moreira between them have taken the view that Joyful Trinity (113lb, gate 7) is the stable pick, ahead of the exciting Helene Paragon (131lb, gate 1) - a horse Moreira has partnered four times for four wins - and Dashing Fellow (118lb, gate 3).
“I just think Joyful Trinity’s a bit fitter this time,” said the Brazilian, twice successful on the four-year-old last term and in the plate for the campaign opening second behind Twin Delight three weeks ago.
“It wasn’t a bad first run,” he continued. “He just missed and if he brings the kind of form and fitness and the improvement he’s shown in his track work, I think he’s going to be right there fighting for the win.”
Moore echoed the Champion Jockey’s appraisal: “He was going into the race slightly underdone and with the shortness of the prep time from August 3 we knew that was the case because he’s a big individual, he does need racing to hit his top, but I’m really happy with him.
“He has no weight on his back and the high weights have to give him plenty,” Moore continued. “If you look at his run late last season behind Joao on Helene Paragon he had to come off the speed, he went all the way, covered extra ground and really knuckled down. But Helene Paragon had the gun run and kicked hard.”
Moreira has been in the saddle for Joyful Trinity’s two most recent gallops and also got the leg up on the French Group 3 victor for a final piece of fast work this morning (Friday, 30 September). Moreira rode Helene Paragon in a barrier trial seven days ago but has since passed the reins to Saturday’s race rider, Sam Clipperton.
“Helene Paragon’s a very nice horse and obviously one of the horses John Moore’s targeting at the international races in December,” Moreira said. “But at this stage I think Joyful Trinity is a bit fitter. I could be making a mistake in riding Joyful Trinity but I’ll go with my feeling and my feeling is Joyful Trinity.”
Moore is nonetheless pleased with Helene Paragon’s progress since rounding out the 2015/16 season with two impressive wins, the first of those a track record-breaking effort in the HKG3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m).
“Just in that short break over the summer, Helene Paragon did so well,” Moore reported. I’m really pleased that he’s drawn gate one where he’s just going to get that lovely run in behind but he will benefit from the race. The aim is to peak them in December for the Hong Kong Mile - we don't want to take the edge off them by really pushing the work into them at this stage. Yet in saying that, Helene Paragon has plenty of quality and he can still be right there - he’s a trier.”
Another “trier” with bundles of class is the Ricky Yiu-trained Packing Pins (129lb). The six-year-old posted a career best in the G1 Champions Mile in May when third to Japan’s Horse of the Year, Maurice, and returned with a solid fifth over an inadequate 1200m in a Sha Tin Class 1 at the season’s opening fixture. Chad Schofield has partnered the Pins gelding in a barrier trial and a couple of recent gallops and will have to overcome a wide draw (gate 11) when he takes the reins for the first time in a race.
“It’s a better trip for him on Saturday, 1200 is a bit short but he still ran well last start,” Schofield said. “The horse is really flying on the track; he’s in a good spot at the moment. He’s still got that freshness in his legs which he really enjoys. It’s a very strong race, there are some good horses in there, but he’s a good horse himself and it will be interesting to see how he goes.
“The draw isn’t ideal but he’s got speed himself and he’s quite versatile, so I’ll sit down and have a talk with Ricky Yiu and come up with a good plan to get a good spot from that gate.”
Top-weight in the Celebration Cup, which has a good field of 12, is last season’s G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) hero Contentment (133lb) for the John Size stable, while Tony Cruz will saddle the high-class 1400m/milers Beauty Flame (129lb) and Beauty Only (132lb), as well as the top-class stayer Helene Super Star (114lb) and Romantic Touch (113lb). Also in the line-up are Secret Weapon (123lb), Horse Of Fortune (119lb) and Brilliant Shine (113lb).
Bogart plays again
Schofield will team up with Moore in the 11-race card’s finale, a hot edition of the Class 2 Beijing Handicap (1200m) aboard Mr Bogart. The five-year-old was beaten at even money when first up for the season at Happy Valley in 7 September but Schofield feels the gelding has come on since then.
“He’s a big, robust horse and probably just needed the run first-up,” he said. “He didn’t disappoint, he still ran a good second. Since then he’s had a trial up the straight behind Peniaphobia and Not Listenin’tome and he trialled super. He’s a high quality horse that has come up the grades quite quickly but there’s still a lot of progress in him and I think he can go all the way to Group company.”
Warrior ready for the fray
Earlier on the card, in race three, the Class 4 Nanjing Handicap (1400m), Moreira will attempt to continue trainer Chris So’s great start to the season when he partners the debutant Dragon Warrior (128lb). The four-year old Haradasun gelding has caught the eye of watchers at track work and looked professional enough when “winning” a recent barrier trial.
“He’s a very nice horse, he’s been given a great feel during track work and I’m very excited about how he’s going to perform at the races,” Moreira said. “I think he is capable of winning first-up; he’s first-up at 1400 metres because we think he will take it without any problem, and actually think he’s more of a miler type rather than just 1400. I’m quite excited about how he’s going to go and I’m looking forward to riding him at the weekend.”
The featured seven-runner G3 National Day Cup down Sha Tin’s 1000m straight is scheduled as race eight, start time 4pm, and the G3 Celebration Cup is race 10, due off at 5.10pm. The card commences at 12.30pm with the Class 5 Xian Handicap (1400m).
The following day, Sunday, 2 October, the Jockey Club will simulcast for betting six races from Nakayama, Japan, including the G1 Sprinters Stakes, as well as two from Chantilly, France, the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and G1 Prix de l’Opera.
Joao Moreira rode Joyful Trinity for a win in a Class 2 1600m event at Sha Tin on 26 June.