By Andrew Hawkins
Helene Paragon has emerged from lowly beginnings at San Sebastian in Spain to become one of John Moore’s stable stars in Hong Kong’s racing hotbed, and in Sunday’s (9 April) G2 Chairman’s Trophy, the entire will attempt to enhance his claim to be the best miler in town.
A winner of two G1 contests already this season, the only horse to achieve the feat in the 2016/17 term to date, the bay finds himself the highest-rated entrant among 10 runners in Sunday’s mile feature at Sha Tin.
But G1 success brings G1 penalties, and the son of Polan, nicknamed ‘El Toro’ – the bull – is lumbered with an extra five-pound burden for his elite level wins in the Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) earlier this year.
Still, Moore and jockey Douglas Whyte believe that Helene Paragon, who drew barrier eight for Sunday’s feature, is capable of offsetting the penalty in the Chairman’s Trophy as he gears up for a tilt at the G1 Champions Mile (1600m) on 7 May.
“Helene Paragon has to give five pounds to Rapper Dragon, and he’s also at level weights with Werther, so I guess that doesn’t help,” Moore said from Sydney on Thursday (6 April), where he is searching for his next stable star at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale. “But he’s a bulldog, I’ve said for months that he is a fighter – he just gives his all and rises to the occasion. This run will bring him on so that he is spot on for the Champions Mile.”
Whyte partnered Helene Paragon in a turf gallop on Monday, clocking 51.5s (27.5, 24.0) for the 800m breeze down the riverside, before once again hopping aboard on Thursday for a light canter on Sha Tin’s all-weather track.
“I can’t fault him,” Whyte said. “His form feels good. I didn’t do much with him this morning, but I put him on the turf on Monday and he feels in reasonable order. I can’t say he’s feeling any better than he has been, but if he holds his form, if the Helene Paragon that we know turns up, he’ll be competitive. The five-pound penalty is of course a concern, you would have liked it to be the other way around, but when you win the big ones, you pay the price in these races.”
Whyte jumps aboard Helene Paragon (128lb) for the first time since he rode the Spanish import into fifth at just his second Hong Kong outing, a Class 2 over this course and distance in February, 2016.
“I still remember riding him that once, you don’t forget it easily,” he said. “He made a run up the inside, and I said to John, ‘Gee, you have a nice horse on your hands.’ He was just a bit dumb and new and he wasn’t quite ring-ready, he wasn’t confident, but I told John that once it all came together for him, he’d be a force to be reckoned with. The way he let down that day, he gave me a very good feel and we’ve seen what he’s done since.”
Moore saddles up four runners in the traditional lead-up race for the G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) on 30 April and the Champions Mile a week later. Helene Paragon is joined by three BMW Hong Kong Derby winners – 2014 victor Designs On Rome, 2016 winner Werther, and Rapper Dragon, making his first appearance against the older horses since completing a clean sweep of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series in last month’s Derby.
Veteran Designs On Rome (123lb) has already won over the course and distance this season, causing an upset when taking the G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) in October under Karis Teetan. The Mauritian rider reunites with the seven-year-old once more on Sunday and says that the Holy Roman Emperor gelding, who has drawn gate three, is entering in good shape.
“I just worked Designs On Rome this morning,” Teetan said at Sha Tin trackwork on Thursday morning. “To be honest, every time I have worked him or trialled him, he has surprised me. I said to Mr Moore last time I worked him, he’s a real warrior horse because he just wants to fight all the time. I think he just needs the race to suit him, if he gets his right run, then he’ll be competitive – I’m not saying he’ll go there and beat all of them but he’ll run to his best again.
“The good thing is, he’s flying at the moment,” continued the jockey, who also rides Dashing Fellow for Moore in Sunday’s other feature, the G2 Sprint Cup (1200m). “I’m sure he will do his best. His most recent trial, he got to the outside and he was really working through the line late. He did beat many of these horses in that race in October carrying 133 pounds, now he doesn’t have to carry any penalty here so I think that if it sets up for him, he can surprise.”
Last year’s Chairman’s Trophy winner Beauty Only and his stablemate Blazing Speed also carry 128lb as the winners of G1 races in the last year. The Tony Cruz pair and Moore’s four are joined by John Size-trained Contentment, Tony Millard’s Horse Of Fortune, Circuit Land for Danny Shum and Limitless, lining up for Peter Ho, in completing the 10-runner field for the G2, which jumps as race eight at 4:35pm on Sunday.
The Sprint Cup comes up a race earlier and sees a field of nine, headed by last year’s winner Lucky Bubbles. It is scheduled to jump at 4.05pm, with the first race on the 10-event card, the Class 4 Chaoyangmen Handicap (1000m), slated for 1pm.
Helene Paragon completes a Group One double in the Queen��s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) in February.
Designs On Rome (No. 4) scores a narrow win in the G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) last October.