Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Declan Schuster
Frankie Lor knows what it takes to win the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) having swept last season’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series and on Sunday (15 December) at Sha Tin he’ll be well-represented with two of his candidates stepping out ahead of the series opener, which is only a month away.
Irish import Decrypt (123lb) is among the mix of hopefuls aiming at the Hong Kong Classic Mile on 27 January and will make his Hong Kong debut in Sunday’s Class 2 Lukfook Jewellery Cup Handicap (1400m). The gelding arrived in August off the back of a third-place effort in the G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh last spring, behind Phoenix Of Spain and runner-up Too Darn Hot.
“He looks like another one of mine who will look toward the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, but we first need to see how he goes on Sunday,” Lor said.
The quality of that Irish 2,000 Guineas has since been franked with the now-retired Too Darn Hot advancing to wins in the G1 Prix Jean Prat at Deauville and the G1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
“He looks fine at the moment, he’s had two trials and he has gate speed, so I think he can get a good position, although he has drawn wide (gate nine) - so we’ll leave it up to Zac (Purton),” Lor said.
The Dark Angel colt steps out on a rating of 93 and with the experience of two trials in Hong Kong.
“He’s not a very big horse, he’s only around 1,020 to 1,030 pounds but he has a good heart so for me, everything is good with him.” Lor said.
Hong Kong’s champion jockey was in the plate for the colt’s most recent trial on the dirt at Sha Tin and will partner again at the weekend.
“He feels like he’s going to need a mile and maybe 2000 (metres) so the distance on Sunday might be a bit short for him,” Purton said.
“He’s only small so hopefully there’s a little bit of pace on, he can run on and show us that he’s going to be a Hong Kong Derby chance.”
Lor also has the Conghua-based Superich (116lb) in the Class 2 feature. The five-year-old was a leading protagonist among his peers going into last year’s Hong Kong Classic Mile but managed only seventh in that race as his form tailed off.
“His first-up run (this season) was not too bad considering last season he was sore, so we needed to take our time with him. We sent him to Conghua and he came back and finished midfield last start - I’m happy with him and he should improve off that,” Lor said.
The son of Red Giant has largely struggled since the end of 2018 but Lor has been pleased with the gelding’s temperament since basing him at Conghua.
“I’ve always said that Conghua is a good place for the horses, the facilities are good and I have horses who can come back and win races,” the trainer said.
Alexis Badel hops on the Danny Shum-trained Perfect Match (113lb) in the race, taking over from the suspended Grant van Niekerk.
“He feels fine, he gave me a good feeling, he’s got a good gate (two) and a light weight - so hopefully he can do something good just like he did last time,” Badel said.
Reliable Team on Derby trail too
Purton and Lor though, will team up again in the finale at Sha Tin with Reliable Team (131lb) who contests the Class 3 Lukfook Jewellery Hugging Family Collection Handicap (1600m).
The Reliable Man gelding has raced on five occasions, all at Happy Valley where he is now a three-time winner thanks to his latest effort under Purton.
“We need to try Sha Tin with him as the owners would like to look toward the Hong Kong Derby, so we need to see if there is a difference at Sha Tin, but he always draws wide this horse - barrier 10, 11 and so on.” Lor said.
Purton has been ever-present on the New Zealand-bred for three wins and is hoping for a more rhythmic runs this time.
“He hasn’t really been in a race yet where he’s just been able to travel, get comfortable and go through his rhythm there’s always been something happening,” he said.
“Early on, obviously the 1200 (metres) was a bit short for him and he was under the pump but now we’ve gone to the mile there’s been pace on, mid-race moves and so on - the poor fella has been fighting a battle every time he’s been out there!
“Hopefully now at Sha Tin it can be a bit more relaxed for him, he can get into a nice rhythm and we’ll see what he can do. But he’s handled everything well so far, so now it’s time to give him his chance at Sha Tin and see if he’s up to it.”
Sunday’s 10-race card at Sha Tin commences at 12.15pm with the Class 4 Lukfook Jewellery Stellar & Stellar Collection Handicap (1000m).