By David Morgan
Rapper Dragon has proven hands down that he is this season’s standout four-year-old but the BMW Hong Kong Derby hero will not have things all his own way in Sunday’s (April 9) open-age HK$4 million Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy, with proven Group 1 stars Werther, Helene Paragon, Blazing Speed and Beauty Only among his nine rivals.
Trainer John Moore is referring to the Sha Tin contest as a “Clash of the Titans” and Rapper Dragon’s presence in the mile race certainly adds an extra dimension this year, above and beyond its standing as an important lead-in to upcoming Group 1 tests, the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) and the Champions Mile.
“It might be a Group 2 race and not a Group 1 but it really is a clash of the titans, a proper head-to-head between the horses that will then diverge to contest the QEII and the Champions Mile,” Moore said this morning (Friday, 7 April), speaking moments before boarding a return flight from Sydney and the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.
“For the Hong Kong racing public, it’s a great chance to get a good look at our elite.
I’m looking forward to the race, it’s going to be a very exciting race for me to watch and a great spectacle for the public,” Moore added.
Rapper Dragon had his final gallop this morning, working 1200m of the all-weather track in 1m 24.6s (30.2, 29.4, 25.0) under his regular work rider. The Street Boss gelding is stepping back to a mile after winning the Derby at 2000m last time, a victory that sealed the chestnut’s place in history as the first horse to win all three races in Hong Kong’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“He’s going to be very hard to beat at the weights,” Moore said. “With the ability he’s already shown he has, that five pounds he’s receiving from the Group 1 winners will make it tough for the likes of Werther, Helene Paragon and Beauty Only.”
Rapper Dragon, the mount of champion jockey Joao Moreira, was an impressive winner of his latest outing at a mile, which came three runs back in the Hong Kong Classic Mile. Moore’s rising star is expected to take his place in the G1 Champions Mile (7 May) after Sunday’s race.
Mile’s best for Beauty Only
Another star turn treading the same route is Beauty Only, but trainer Tony Cruz is also eyeing an assault on a familiar Japanese prize with December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile hero.
“He’ll go on to the Champions Mile after Sunday and that’s the first big target, but the race I’m aiming for after that is the Yasuda Kinen in June,” Cruz said. “I won the race with Bullish Luck and even Silent Witness was third there, but I think this is the perfect horse for that race. The track has two rises, one in the backstretch and one in the home straight and I think Beauty Only would handle that no problem.
“He’s likely to get his fast ground in Tokyo, too. Even when it does rain it can dry out quickly - it rained the day before Bullish Luck ran, a big downpour, and the next day they still raced on a fast track.”
Fast ground is key to Beauty Only performing at his peak. And Cruz believes the mile distance is his optimum, the Holy Roman Emperor gelding having failed to show his true form when fifth behind Werther over 2000m in the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup last start.
“He was never a 2000-metre horse, he’s a real miler, so we’ll stick to the mile from now on,” Cruz said. “I expect him to be right there at the finish on Sunday and the faster the ground the better, so we want this sun to keep on shining. I’m very happy with him.”
Zac Purton will partner Beauty Only for the seventh time in the bay’s last eight starts. The former champion jockey has notched two wins atop the former Italian galloper and partnered in a recent barrier trial over 1200m on the all-weather in which the pair took things easy to finish sixth of six behind the likes of Thewizardofoz, Peniaphobia and Lucky Bubbles.
“He just didn’t seem to be at his best in the Hong Kong Gold Cup,” Purton opined. “He was gone at the 500-metre mark, which is not like him. We’ll just forget about that run.
“He’s back to a mile, he’s had a trial, he’s trialled well, and he’s finally drawn a good gate (2) so he should be able to find a nice position, although he tends to get back. I expect him to run very well.”
Purton partnered another “Beauty” horse, Beauty Generation, to finish third behind Rapper Dragon in last month’s Derby, so the hoop has a good gauge on how that rival might fare against the established elite.
“I expect Rapper Dragon to measure up,” he declared. “The horse has got a good turn-of-foot, he’s got tactical versatility and he’s clearly better than the other four-year-olds so you would think he’d handle stepping out against the open age horses.”
The Chairman’s Trophy is race eight on the 10-race card, due off at 4.35pm, and also features the G1 winners Contentment and former Horse of the Year Designs On Rome. The smart Horse Of Fortune and Circuit Land and the talented four-year-old Limitless complete the line-up.
Sunday’s racing kicks off at 1pm with the Class 4 Chaoyangmen Handicap (1000m) and also features the HK$4 million G2 Sprint Cup (1200m). The action concludes at 5.45pm with the Class 3 Wangfujing Handicap (1400m).
Rapper Dragon makes history in winning the BMW Hong Kong Derby.
Beauty Only does Hong Kong proud as he lands the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile last December.