By Andrew Hawkins
Sea Jade will be out to enter rarefied territory when the John Moore trainee tackles the Class 2 Seoul Handicap (1200m) that closes Wednesday night’s (26 April) card at Happy Valley.
The three-year-old will attempt to win his sixth race for the season, a feat that has been achieved only three times in the last five years. G1 winners Able Friend and Contentment managed to win six races in a term, both achieving the milestone in the 2014/15 season, while G1-placed Best Eleven won six races in his debut season in 2011/12.
“I haven’t really thought about how big an achievement it would be for him, especially as a three-year-old, but it would be something! Those are some big names there,” Moore said at Sha Tin trackwork on Tuesday morning (25 April). “He’s done everything right until his last run. He’s a massive horse, 16.2 hands now, and his progression has been remarkable – now he’s risen 44 points in the ratings, and if he can win one more, maybe he’ll be this season’s Most Improved Horse. And he’s still only three.”
Sea Jade (132lb) is coming off a career-worst effort at his most recent start over the track and trip in March, when he finished last of 12 behind Jetwings as 5.2 second favourite under Joao Moreira. However, Moore says that it is a run that is best forgiven.
“He pulled up with blood in his trachea, he wasn’t able to stride last time out and I think that’s his best asset,” Moore said. “I gave him a trial over the straight and he came out of it well, so I think he’s back to his best. He’s drawn well in three, he’s going to run well, he’s got side winkers on now so he’s going there with a live chance, even with 132 pounds.”
Jockey Sam Clipperton is reunited with Sea Jade on Wednesday for the first time since November, and believes the Star Witness gelding is capable of bouncing back.
“The barrier is a massive help for him,” Clipperton said. “He’s a course and distance specialist, his last four wins have been over the Happy Valley 1200m, so we know he is capable. He’s a funny horse, he’s a bit of a free roller – you can’t restrain him too much, he’s got a high cruising speed, and so you need to let him use his stride.
“It’s a competitive race though, there are a few good chances in it, but the draw gives me options as to whether I lead or take a sit in behind them. He’s quite versatile like that. He does put himself into the race though, he can make his own luck, and that’s such a positive. He’s showing all signs are well at home, he’s working nicely, his trial was good, so all things going well, he will be right in the finish.”
Finishing one spot ahead of Sea Jade in that mid-March event was another three-year-old, John Size-trained Premiere (118lb), who was sent out 2.4 favourite. He has raced since over the straight 1000m, finishing fourth to Momentum Lucky under Moreira, and the Brazilian remains in the plate for this race.
“I didn’t think his last run was too bad,” the rider said. “I think he was just a bit tired from his previous races. I think he’s come out of the race well and he can return to his best again.”
Premiere has won three races this season, all over 1000m, with his one attempt at 1200m yielding an 11th behind Jetwings. However, Moreira believes that the right set of circumstances can help the Dylan Thomas gelding win over the extended trip.
“I think he can get 1200 metres,” Moreira said. “In particular, when Hugh Bowman rode him and he was able to ride him a little quieter than what he has been ridden recently, he finished off very strongly. He indicated on that day that he’s capable of running 1200 metres. A few times when I rode him, he gave me a feeling that he is capable of relaxing. This race looks on paper like there might be a bit of speed, so we might have a few options.”
Other horses set for the 12-runner line-up include last-start winner Mr Genuine (123lb), recent placegetters Charity Joy (128lb), High Five (122lb) and Flying Tourbillon (120lb), and The Golden Age (120lb), a Tony Cruz-trained import who finished fourth to National Defense in the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (1600m) at Chantilly at his latest start in October.
The Class 2 Seoul Handicap (1200m) closes the eight-race Happy Valley meeting at 10:50pm, with the opener, the Class 5 Gwangju Handicap (1650m), set for 7:15pm.
Sea Jade (No. 12) and Blocker Dee dead heat for the win in the Class 1 Happy Valley Trophy (1200m) in February.