Eagle Way overcame his health issues to win the G3 January Cup Handicap at Happy Valley.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Andrew Hawkins
BMW Hong Kong Derby candidates Ruthven and Rivet will face in-form stablemate Eagle Way in a select line-up for Sunday’s G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m), with trainer John Moore looking for his high-profile four-year-olds to signpost their Classic Series credentials.
Each of Moore’s three was a G1 winner pre-import: Eagle Way and Ruthven won the Queensland Derby in 2016 and 2017, respectively, while Rivet took the Racing Post Trophy as a juvenile in England.
Eagle Way has already taken his shot at the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), running sixth last year behind another Moore galloper, Rapper Dragon. The five-year-old is set to shoulder a 131lb impost on Sunday after overcoming a lung issue to win the G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) at Happy Valley last start. Moore believes that weighty burden will be tough to overcome against his younger rivals, the seven-runner field’s bottom-weighted pair with 113lb.
“Eagle Way galloped yesterday (Thursday, 1 February) and Tommy (Berry) said it’s the fittest he’s ever been,” the trainer said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (2 February). “He came back and said this horse is really cherry ripe, he’s over any of his problems. But this is a handicap and Rivet and Ruthven carry the minimum weight, so he’s up there to be beaten, really – and so are a few others!
“From a handicap point of view, Eagle Way will need all the favours with 131lb on his back, especially against the younger horses. He may be the fittest horse but the others are on the way up, and I expect that they will be seen as legitimate Derby horses after Sunday’s race.”
Last start, Rivet (fifth) and Ruthven (seventh) finished behind Nothingilikemore in the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile and both are likely starters in the second leg, the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), in two weeks’ time. Ruthven led the Classic Mile at brisk fractions while Rivet sat beyond midfield, but Moore envisages a different pattern this time, with Derek Leung on Ruthven and Karis Teetan on Rivet.
“Ruthven, you just have to forget the last run. He just went too quick, the sectionals didn’t help his chances,” he said. “Rivet has been getting better with every run, so hopefully he’s able to continue progressing mentally – he’s still a colt and that might be a problem. The way he’s been hitting the line the last two races, though, gives us hope that he might be closing off very strongly with no weight on his back.
“I think last start taught us that Ruthven likes to come from off the speed, so I think Ruthven and Rivet will go back here. I just hope there are some other horses that will go on and set the pace – I think Horse Of Fortune will go forward along with Dinozzo, and don’t forget about Eagle Way either. He’s got a weight that means he can’t be conceding too much ground, so he will probably be in the first three this time around.”
Eagle Way is one of two Siu Pak Kwan-owned gallopers in the septet. Also lining up in his red and black colours is the John Size-trained Dinozzo (122lb), who makes a quick reappearance after winning a Class 2 event over 1650m at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (31 January) – something that Size says he has had in the works for quite some time.
“He didn’t have too tough a run you wouldn’t think, at least visually, but obviously he won the race so he’s done plenty of work,” Size said. “He seems to be OK at home though and maybe the cool weather will help him out a little bit. It was the plan for a while – he’s going to struggle a bit after Sunday to find a suitable race, so I thought if he runs in both of them and wins one of them, it would be a good result for his owners.”
Joao Moreira, who won on Dinozzo over this course and distance in November, reunites with the Lilbourne Lad five-year-old after apprentice Jack Wong steered him to victory on Wednesday night.
Completing the field are G1-placed Secret Weapon (133lb), Royal Ascot winner Gold Mount (129lb) and Tony Millard-trained Horse Of Fortune (129lb), who is seeking a slice of history as the first horse to win all three of Sha Tin’s Group 3 handicaps at 1800m, having already clinched the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse and the Premier Plate.
The Centenary Vase is the third of 10 races at Sha Tin on Sunday and is set to jump at 6am, with the opener, the Class 5 Butterfly Handicap (1200m), scheduled for 5am.