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David  Morgan

David Morgan

Classic trail takes Playa Del Puente and Extra Brut to the Valley

Tue 12th Nov 2019, 07:00

Joao Moreira was pleased with Playa Del Puente’s recent win.
Hong Kong Jockey Club

Playa Del Puente’s impressive performance at Happy Valley last month thrust him high up the early BMW Hong Kong Derby pecking order and the three-year-old will attempt to confirm that position at the city track on Wednesday, 13 November.

Danny Shum’s charge takes on 11 talented rivals in the Class 2 Maurice Handicap (1650m) including the high profile Australian import Extra Brut, winner of the G1 Victoria Derby (2500m) a year ago.

Joao Moreira has ridden Playa Del Puente (127lb) in two of his three Hong Kong starts and is aiming to go back-to-back having guided the Irish import to a front-running three-length score over the course and distance last time.

“I think he’s as good as he looks,” Moreira said this morning (Tuesday, 12 November).

In 2017 the Brazilian rode Rapper Dragon to become the first horse in history to win all three legs of the Hong Kong Classic Series. He believes the 90-rated Playa Del Puente has what it takes to at least be a player in this season’s series, which kicks off in January with the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m), continues with the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) one month later and ends on 22 March with the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).   

“What he’s done so far, he deserves the opportunity to be running in those Classic races coming up soon and he might be up to it,” Moreira said.

“He has quality and he’s proven that since day one. In his first race he got back and he finished just about two lengths behind a decent horse (Gold Chest). He is young and with him being targeted towards the Derby I think he’s showing what he should be showing - he’s a very nice horse.”

Despite his evident ability, Playa Del Puente displayed some immaturity in his first two starts but looked consummately professional in his latest race.

“Not just last time,” Moreira noted. “The other day I galloped him on the grass track and he seems much more mature. He’s coping and learning quicker than I thought he would, to be honest, and that is a very good sign!”

Derby Extra

Extra Brut (130lb) is set to make his Hong Kong debut for trainer Frankie Lor, with champion jockey Zac Purton having passed positive feedback to the handler after partnering the four-year-old in a dirt track gallop last week.

“He has looked really good in the morning so I hope he can run a good a race,” Lor said this morning.

“He has had three good barrier trials and one time last week I put Zac on and he said the horse was in good form and ready to race.”

The first of those trials was around Happy Valley’s idiosyncratic, tight circuit back in September and the proven stayer ran home sixth of eight over 1200m, with high-class galloper Southern Legend within touching distance in fifth.

“There aren’t many races for him at the moment and we trialled him at Happy Valley, so we decided to start him off in this race. His trial there was no problem; the only issue maybe is that he’s drawn 11,” Lor said.

“In Australia he raced near the back but at Happy Valley the straight is short so maybe we’ll see if Zac can settle him midfield with cover. I hope he can run well and then we can make a decision about where he goes next.”

The trainer won all three legs of last year’s Classic Series: Furore won the Hong Kong Classic Mile and BMW Hong Kong Derby, while Mission Tycoon collected the Hong Kong Classic Cup.

Lor’s Morethanlucky (130lb), third in the 2018 Hong Kong Classic Mile, is slated to join the line-up, returning to the Valley for the first time since May 2017.

“The race looked a little bit weak and he had a race at Happy Valley a long time ago so I put him in,” the trainer said of his Conghua-based charge who is without a win in 13 months.

“Last time at Sha Tin he looked like he’d improved a bit. Our horses in Conghua go well and have shown when they come back from Hong Kong that they can run well.”

Buddies downtown

Buddies (124lb) has four wins from 10 career starts and further progress could yet see the 87-rated four-year-old make the Hong Kong Classic Series.

The on-pace galloper heads to the Valley for the first time, having snared three of his victories on the Sha Tin dirt.

“I think Happy Valley will be ideal for him,” trainer John Moore said. “He’s done everything right leading into the race and I believe he will handle Happy Valley, with that cushion in the track.

“He can go very good sectionals so they’ll have to run him down and I think he’s a live chance. The gate (nine) is not that important because he has good gate speed: he’ll cross over and if something wants to sit outside him, well he’ll just go straight to the front again.”

Moore also has the consistent Happy Dragon (125lb) in the Class 2 contest, the nine-race card’s finale. The five-year-old was second to Playa Del Puente last time.

“He is in very good form,” Moore said. “He might have started to reach his maximum rating but from that gate (two) on the C track, you’ve got to give him a chance too. He’s done everything right leading into the race.

“Happy Dragon has already proven himself and will be hitting the line as against Buddies who I believe will handle the track but there’s still that negative that he’s never proven himself there.”

The smart Green Luck (133lb) from the Caspar Fownes stable tops the weights - but has 10lb claimer Alfred Chan booked to reduce that burden - while John Size is set to saddle Hezthewonforus (131lb) and Mr So And So (125lb). The field also features Good Omen (122lb), Brave Legend (121lb), Amazing Beats (120lb) and Noble Steed (118lb).

Wednesday’s action also includes the Class 3 Sutherland Handicap (1200m) in which the Fownes-trained Snap Fit (127lb) will attempt to take his unbeaten sequence to four under Purton.

Racing starts at 6.45pm with the Class 5 Battery Path Handicap (1200m).