By David Morgan
Beat The Clock (128lb) returns from a mid-season breather in Sunday’s (11 June) feature race at Sha Tin, the Class 2 Hong Kong University Alumni Association Challenge Cup Handicap (1400m), and jockey Joao Moreira is in a positive mindset about his mount’s chances of passing this test before graduating to the higher grades next term.
“I think he’s better than this class - I think he’s going to end up winning cup races and he’s just on the way there,” the champion jockey said this morning (9 June). “He’s impressed me all the time I’ve been riding him and I couldn’t be any more positive about where he might get to, he’s given me confidence each time.”
The John Size-trained three-year-old has risen from a career-commencing mark of 52 to a current rating of 91 through seven starts that have yielded three wins, three seconds and one third-place finish.
Size, four behind Tony Cruz’s all-time Hong Kong record of 91 wins in a season, has given his young charge a three-month break since a 1200m Class 3 win at the track back on 5 March. That success earned a 9lb hike in the ratings.
“Beat The Clock seems okay, he’s had a little bit of time off in the middle of the season and he’s come back pretty healthy and well; he’s sound, he’s had a couple of trials, so that’s good enough to go to the races,” Size said of the two-time course and distance winner.
If the Hinchinbrook gelding’s three barrier trials in the past month or so are anything to go by, then he appears to have benefitted from his break. The most recent of those saw Beat The Clock travel wide down the straight to edge ahead of Sunday’s opponent Adventurer (130lb), covering 1200m on the dirt track in 1m 10.01s.
“I think he’d done enough work, he’d done enough racing and he needed a bit of time off but I think he’s appreciated that, he’s only a young horse. He’s got good character and a good temperament; he’s quite a diligent horse,” Size added.
The trainer does have one minor misgiving: the bay’s tendency to start slowly. “I’d like to probably see him running in the first three,” he said. “If he could get up there and sit third or something that would be suitable for him. He doesn’t always get away to a good start.”
Limitless steps out for Fownes
Beat The Clock is set to face a smart field of 11 rivals. The John Moore-trained Midnight Rattler will shoulder top-weight of 133lb, one pound more than the talented Limitless who will make his first start for the Caspar Fownes stable.
Zac Purton will get the leg up on last year’s Britannia Handicap winner, slated to have his first start since running sixth for former handler Peter Ho in a Class 1 at the course and distance on 23 April. The rider was aboard Limitless when the four-year-old closed off eye-catchingly to finish on the heels of Beat The Clock and Adventurer in the aforementioned barrier trial.
“I thought his trial was good; he seemed to relax pretty well in there and he seems as if he’s nice and healthy at the moment,” Purton said of the Lope De Vega gelding, an impressive winner at the course and distance off a 10lb lower mark in February.
“I haven’t had a lot to do with the horse, this will be the first time I’ll be on him in a competitive setting and I’ve been on him in one piece of work down the grass (as well as the trial), but he gives me the impression that he can relax and he can switch off, and when he does that we know how good he can be. Hopefully we get the tempo to suit,” the Australian rider continued.
“He’s been a pretty hot-headed horse, he had a rushed preparation when he got here, to try and get him to the Derby, so it was all happening very fast for him. But since the Derby he’s been able to chill a little bit and he seems to be benefitting from that.”
Sunday’s race will be Limitless’s sixth Hong Kong start. The bay was stretched to 2000m when 13th in the BMW Hong Kong Derby in March.
“It’s probably a little early to put him in a (distance) category but he was impressive over a shorter trip earlier in the season, so, at the moment, while he’s still trying to wrap his head around things, 1400 metres or a mile is a nice distance for him. Once he learns to settle, he might get up over further,” Purton opined.
Also declared for Sunday’s feature are Lucky Ever (131lb), All You Wish (127lb), Little Dragon (126lb), Happy Spirit (123lb), The Golden Age (120lb), Chater Legend (120lb), Happy Agility (119lb) and bottom-weight Gold Land who, with apprentice Matthew Poon’s 10lb claim, is expected to carry a feather 108lb.
Purton eyes a fourth for Reward
Purton is hoping to continue a winning association with Best Reward in race four, the Class 4 HKU Faculty of Science Handicap (1200m). The former champion jockey is seeking a four-timer in tandem with Chris So’s game galloper who steps up to 2200m after scoring at 2000m last start.
“The step up in trip is not going to be a concern at all, the longer he goes the better, I think, and he’s been racing really well,” Purton said.
“I don’t think it’s over for him as long as he gets races run to suit, where they either go a fast speed through the early and mid-sections or he’s in a position where he can make an early move, he’s always going to be competitive over a distance.
“He’s got no speed at all, he’s like a snail through the first part so the barrier’s (11) irrelevant to him.”
Sunday’s card kicks off at 1pm with the Class 4 HKU Faculty of Architecture Handicap (1000m) and concludes with the Class 3 HKU SPACE Handicap (1600m) at 5.45pm.
Beat The Clock wins a Class 3 over 1200m last time.
Limitless opens his Hong Kong account in a Class 2 1400m event in February.
Best Reward completes a hat-trick of win this season at his last start.