International movie star Donnie Yen was appointed Derby Ambassador for the sixth consecutive year.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
The 14 selected contenders for the HK$18 million BMW Hong Kong Derby were revealed during a media conference at Happy Valley Racecourse this afternoon, Wednesday, 7 March.
The Derby dates back to 1873 and is the race that every Hong Kong horseman dreams of winning. The 2000-metre contest, which will be run at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, 18 March, is the third and final leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
This season’s Classic Series has delivered one or two thrilling plot twists so far with Nothingilikemore an impressive winner of the Hong Kong Classic Mile, only to be superseded by Singapore Sling in last month’s Hong Kong Classic Cup. Those results set up the prospect of an intriguing decider in the Derby on Sunday, 18 March.
The high-rated duo will not have things all their own way though. The exciting line-up of star four-year-olds selected for Hong Kong’s blue riband event also features the likes of Exultant, The Golden Age and the exciting dark horse Ping Hai Star.
Mr. Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing, said: “This year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby has all of the excitement and intrigue that befits Hong Kong’s most sought-after prize. We have a number of horses vying for generational supremacy in what is the world’s second richest Derby, and that makes for an exciting build-up.
“The Derby not only decides the four-year-old leader but also highlights Hong Kong’s emerging stars. Each year we see the race produce future Group 1 talent and the best of this year’s field will no doubt be well-placed to continue that established pattern.
“With once-in-a-lifetime glory on the line, we can expect to see another great race on 18 March when I, like every other racing fan, will watch with eager anticipation to see which horse will be this year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby hero.”
Trainer John Size will look to Nothingilikemore, a winner of six from eight career starts, and Ping Hai Star as he aims for a third BMW Hong Kong Derby success (2012 Fay Fay, 2015 Luger). Ping Hai Star has shown good progress in six starts this term, winning his last three in fine style, all at 1400m. The import, a winner of two from three in Australia, is the third top-rated of the Derby selections thanks to a mark of 103.
Singapore Sling (106) was a high-class G2 winner in South Africa prior to making his mark in Hong Kong. Tony Millard won the Derby with the exceptional Ambitious Dragon (2011) and Keen Winner (2000); his current charge has won two of four races since import and was second to Nothingilikemore in the Hong Kong Classic Mile.
Exultant was a smart performer in Ireland, placing third in the G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas, and has shown plenty of promise in five Hong Kong races. The bay won a Class 2 handicap win at the Derby course and distance before running on to fourth in the Classic Mile and second in the Classic Cup.
That gelding’s trainer, Tony Cruz, also has The Golden Age, a front-running two-time winner at Happy Valley who took third spot in the Classic Cup last time. The handler, who won the race with Helene Mascot (2008) and Lucky Owners (2004), also has Doctor Geoff and G1 German Derby third Savvy Six.
John Moore became the most successful Hong Kong Derby trainer in modern history when he won a sixth edition last year with Rapper Dragon. This time he relies on G1-winning imports Rivet and Ruthven, as well as the solid stayer, Rocketeer.
Richard Gibson saddled Akeed Mofeed to win the Derby in 2013 and the trainer has Rattan engaged this time. The gelding won three races on the bounce earlier this term and was ninth in the Classic Cup last time out.
David Ferraris is chasing a second Derby win to complement his success with the outstanding Vengeance Of Rain in 2005. This time the trainer looks to Patriot Hero, runner-up in last year’s G3 Italian 2,000 Guineas (1600m), who has shown promising progress in his three Hong Kong outings to date.
German 2,000 Guineas second Lockheed represents trainer Danny Shum, while the Dennis Yip-trained Good Omen is also in the selected 14.
Horses that have tasted Derby glory on their way to G1 success include Viva Pataca (2006), Designs On Rome (2014) and Werther (2016). In 2017, Rapper Dragon’s Derby win meant that the chestnut gelding became the first horse to win all three legs of the Four-year-Old Classic Series.