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Blizzard to come in from the cold in competitive Panasonic Cup


By Andrew Hawkins

Redemption could be on the cards for flashy chestnut Blizzard as he aims to end a frustrating drought in a competitive renewal of the Class 1 Panasonic Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin tomorrow (Saturday, 12 November).

Ricky Yiu-trained Blizzard (132lb) was heavily backed to start second favourite in last year’s Panasonic Cup, coming off the back of three impressive wins, but weakened out after a wide run to finish 10th behind Dashing Fellow and Sun Jewellery.

It was one of only two runs last season where he finished off the board, the other coming when he failed to see out the 2000m of the HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby behind Werther.

Otherwise, he had stamped himself as one of Hong Kong’s most consistent gallopers, although he has not seen the winners’ circle since October last year. Placings in the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) behind Sun Jewellery were supposed to be a portent of things to come this season.

This time in, though, he has struggled to find the breaks that are sorely needed to be competitive at the highest levels. He was a hard luck story first-up when checked badly mid-race before recovering to finish third to Lucky Year in the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap (1200m), while last start, he was wide and without cover for the majority of the race when finishing fifth to Lucky Bubbles in the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m).

“The horse has always shown that he’s got ability,” said jockey Zac Purton this morning (Friday, 11 November) ahead of his new association with the gelding. “Hopefully we can get a nice run in the race and he can show us what he’s got. He drew wide last start and he was posted, but hopefully gate seven can be a difference here – you’ve still got to try and get a spot from there, but it looks like there is a little bit of speed in the race. So hopefully we get him into the correct spot, get him into his rhythm and he can perform from there.”

Purton jumps on Blizzard for the first time under race conditions, but the Australian rider has been aboard the son of Starcraft in his last three gallops and believes he is ready to fire now, particularly with the step up to 1400m.

“He’s feeling good in the mornings, so if he shows up, he’ll be competitive even with 132 pounds,” he said. “It’s hard to say what his best distance is, obviously they were pushing him to get into the Derby, taking him up in distance but he looks like a sprinter-miler – anything from 1200m to a mile looks best for him, so the 1400m should be right up his alley. I’m confident he’ll be hard to beat in this sort of race.”

Chris So-trained Racing Supernova (119lb), a horse Purton has ridden in four of his six Hong Kong starts, steps beyond 1200m for the first time in his career with Joao Moreira taking over in the saddle, while Danny Shum’s Circuit Land (131lb) and Mr Bogart (128lb) for John Moore both enter off impressive last-start victories.

Mr Bogart boasts one of Hong Kong’s hottest form lines, having been the first horse to down boom galloper Pakistan Star, and rider Chad Schofield believes he is well suited to the Class 1 contest.

“It looks a lovely race for him again,” he said. “He’s drawn very nicely, I was very happy when the gates came out. He’s just going to have a very similar run to last start, right up on the speed, and we know how strong his final 400 to 600 metres can be.”

Schofield rode Blizzard last time out, but says he wouldn’t switch his Panasonic Cup ride if given the chance.

“Blizzard’s a good horse, but so is my bloke, it’s going to be a fantastic race,” he said. “I am certainly happy to be on Mr Bogart here. He is a lovely horse and he keeps taking everything that is put in front of him, he keeps winning and doing it very well. His win last start was phenomenal, sitting up on that hot speed, kicking off it and maintaining that gallop all the way to the line. It was a strong win.”

“He is a lovely, big, laid back horse, not much worries him, he’s very strong, Mr Moore says he takes a lot of work to keep up to the mark. He’s fit, he’s well and I’m looking forward to the race.”

Circuit Land is a rising six-year-old, but he is in the form of his life this term. The son of Mizzen Mast impressed on dirt last season, even putting himself in the picture for a potential trip to Seoul in September, but this term he has transferred his best form to turf.

“It’s a strong Class 1, but there’s no doubt in my mind he’s a genuine Class 1 horse,” said rider Nash Rawiller. “He’s definitely up to these, but he has a bad draw in gate 14. We just need a few things to fall our way, especially from the awkward draw. But he’s a push-button horse, he’s got a good turn of foot and he’s a proper, genuine horse.”

“He’ll have to go back from the draw and we’ll have to ride him for luck with the big weight. But he’s a lovely horse, he’s done everything right since winning last time out. He’s had a lot of time to get over that but he’s a very fit horse. So we’re going to have to bite the bullet, go back and try to get to the fence, and hopefully everything pans out from there.”

The Class 1 Panasonic Cup Handicap (1400m) is the eighth of 10 races on tomorrow’s card and is scheduled for 4.35pm, with the first, the Class 5 Panasonic Robot Cleaner Handicap (2000m), set to jump at 1pm.

Blizzard (No. 2) wins a 1400m event at Sha Tin in October last year.
Photo 1:
Blizzard (No. 2) wins a 1400m event at Sha Tin in October last year.

Mr Bogart coasts to victory in a Class Two event last start.
Photo 2:
Mr Bogart coasts to victory in a Class Two event last start.



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