By David Morgan
Gold Mount has an air of mystique about him as he goes into Sunday’s (28 May) HK$10 million G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m); a Royal Ascot winner, no less, the four-year-old’s fledgling Hong Kong career is already hinting at big days ahead.
“He’s a horse with really good potential,” trainer Tony Cruz said. “He’ll need to take another step forward on Sunday, no doubt about it, but I do think he can finish in the frame.”
The bay sealed his first G1 assignment with a smart effort at the end of April, running on from the tail to finish third in the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap at the course and distance. He had already impressed with a scything Sha Tin debut win over a mile back in late February, and, according to Cruz, his between-times failure in March’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) should be forgiven.
“In the Derby, he got injured during the race when a horse seems to have crossed him and contacted his front cannon bone and cut him, so he was sore and lame and that’s why he didn’t perform,” Cruz revealed.
“All in all, I’m pleased with his progression since he arrived here: he won his first race, which was at a mile, so I had to be very happy with that. Since then, he’s finished third in the Queen Mother at the mile and a half and I was very happy with that, he ran on well.”
Gold Mount’s first-up win in a 1600m Class 2 showed that last year’s impressive King George V Handicap (2400m) victor possesses smart toe to complement the stamina that carried him to a three and a quarter-length score in that Royal Ascot event.
Owner Pan Sutong was prompted to open his cheque book after that regal performance: Primitivo, as he was then known, departed Alan King’s Barbury Castle yard, arrived at Sha Tin last September and was renamed Gold Mount.
Although lightly-raced on the Hong Kong circuit, Gold Mount stepped out eight times in Britain as he matured from an unremarkable debut for King in a low-key 1400m Wolverhampton maiden back in June, 2015. The British-bred finished sixth of 11 on the Tapeta at odds of 33/1.
But that juvenile season was all about education and development, and a gentle upward curve saw him end the term with a breakthrough win at start five, a mile nursery handicap at Windsor as the 6/4 favourite. A brace of handicap successes at 2200m and 2000m kicked off his three-year-old campaign, and then came the Ascot romp.
Gold Mount has certainly come a long way, in more ways than one, but Cruz appreciates that for all of his charge’s burgeoning talent, Sunday’s task is a stiff one. Werther, last year’s Horse of the Year, leads the opposition, which also features Gold Mount’s stablemate Blazing Speed, a two-time (2014 & 2016) Champions & Chater Cup hero, as well as the Queen Mother Memorial Cup one-two, the G1 winners Eagle Way and Helene Charisma.
“It’s a Group 1 race, set-weights, so it’s going to be difficult for him, but it’s a small field, he likes the mile and a half and the owner is keen for him to take his chance,” Cruz said.
And the trainer, who is chasing a fifth consecutive Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, would be happy if the prevailing rain continued to fall over the coming days.
“If there’s give in the ground on Sunday, he’ll love it. He goes on anything but on Sunday I’d prefer him on a slower track,” he said. Gold Mount’s Ascot win was achieved on ground officially rated soft but he has also triumphed on good and good to firm.
“He’s a small horse but, it’s like I’ve said before, he’s a Mini Cooper with a Porsche engine and he stays the trip, so he definitely goes there with a chance,” Cruz added.
Multiple G1 winner Designs On Rome and Basic Trilogy complete the seven-runner line-up for this year’s Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup.
Gold Mount opens his Hong Kong account over a mile at Sha Tin in February.