Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Declan Schuster
Immersed in fame and prestige, the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) is the one race that everyone in Hong Kong desires and this Sunday (20 March) at Sha Tin, Karis Teetan is hoping to etch his name in an honour roll that stems back to 1873 when he hops aboard Romantic Warrior in the HK$24 million third and final leg of Hong Kong’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“I think you can ask anybody here — trainers, jockeys or owners — the Derby is the one race they want to win in Hong Kong and it’s a race that we all look forward to and to win it is a big thing for us; to have a chance like Romantic Warrior — I’m looking forward to riding him,” Teetan said.
Teetan arrived in Hong Kong in for the 2013/14 season — he shot the lights out in his first campaign with 50 wins and he’s since added another 470 to his a haul, a figure he is looking to bolster in Hong Kong’s most sought-after prize this weekend.
Won by some of racing’s best in the saddle including the likes of Pat Eddery, Philippe Paquet, Gary Moore, Tony Cruz, Felix Coetzee and Michael Kinane — Teetan is full of confidence in Romantic Warrior’s ability to see out the Derby distance as he chases a piece of Hong Kong racing folklore.
“Last time with the wide draw we got caught out and like Danny (Shum) said we learnt a lot from the horse and now we know, much like I said after we won the Hong Kong Classic Mile that 2000 metres will be no problem, so I’m not worried about the distance — I think he will stay,” Teetan said.
Romantic Warrior — bought for HK$4.8 million out of the 2021 Hong Kong International Sale — won his first five starts including the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) in January, before covering ground last time out to finish fourth behind California Spangle in the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m).
Teetan finished second in last year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby aboard Russian Emperor behind Sky Darci, while the Mauritian’s two wins in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series came with Thunder Fantasy in the 2015 Hong Kong Classic Cup and this year’s Hong Kong Classic Mile with Romantic Warrior.
“The good thing about this horse is he has a powerful turn of foot, so let’s hope we can pull a draw on Thursday (17 March) which will benefit him.
“He tries his heart out, he is just a horse who goes out there and tries his heart out, I think he’s doing well at the moment and if things go our way we have a shot,” the 31-year-old said.
Owned by Peter Lau Pak Fai and trained by Danny Shum, Romantic Warrior — a four-year-old son of Acclamation — has already banked HK$11.13 million in earnings.
“He’s doing well, he had a grass gallop on Saturday (12 March) — he seemed to do that pretty nicely, I’ve always said that he is a horse who keeps improving each and every time, he’s a lovely horse and I think he’s a horse that’s going to continue to progress nicely later on too,” Teetan said.
History will also favour Teetan and Romantic Warrior this Sunday when the pair head to post. Since 2000, only one horse has prevailed in the BMW Hong Kong Derby with a rating below 100 — Keen Winner in 2000, while this year, only Romantic Warrior and California Spangle rate above 100 on 101 apiece.
Last Saturday (12 March) at Sha Tin, Teetan sizzled with a four-timer — form he is looking to carry through the week when he gets the leg-up on Mercurial in the first section of the Class 3 Chester Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley this Wednesday evening (16 March).
“He won a nice race last time, I thought he had a perfect trip, he came from the outside draw and the pace was on and he ran home very strongly.
“I think even going up in class now with less weight on his back, I don’t believe it’s a very strong race, so I think he’s going to have his chance again,” Teetan said.
Stepping away from gate six, Mercurial steps back up to Class 3 after his last-start victory in the grade below.
Earlier on the card, Teetan hops aboard Soaring Tower for Chris So in the first section of the Class 4 Hereford Handicap (1200m). The Charm Spirit gelding is a one-time winner from nine starts in Hong Kong.
“He’s been a bit disappointing, when he won first-up we thought he was something special but he’s had to overcome a few issues and this season he’s ran one or two good races but now he heads to the Valley with a good draw, so I’m hoping that will suit him,” Teetan said.
Wednesday’s (16 March) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.45pm with the Class 5 Selkirk Handicap (1000m).