The Golden Age runs at Happy Valley in the G3 January Cup handicap on Wednesday.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
By David Morgan
The Golden Age (118lb) will attempt to become the first four-year-old since last century to win the Group 3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) when he takes on more experienced rivals at Happy Valley on Wednesday (10 January) night.
Trainer Tony Cruz has opted to aim the French import at the Valley’s only Pattern race as he plots a progression that he hopes will take his talented charge through the last two legs of the upcoming Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
No four-year-old has won the January Cup since the David Hayes-trained Championship triumphed in January 1999, the last time the race was staged at Sha Tin.
“We’re hoping for another nice run from The Golden Age on Wednesday and after this he’ll go to the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and then the plan is the Hong Kong Derby (2000m),” Cruz said.
The My Risk gelding will contest this mid-week test as an alternative to the three-race Series’ first leg, the Hong Kong Classic Mile, in 12 days’ time, for which the Cruz stable has entered the impressive last start winner Exultant, Doctor Geoff and Dragon Lips.
The Golden Age has posted two front-running wins at Happy Valley from as many starts this term. Last time, in a Class 2 over the course and distance, the French import held the re-opposing pair of Dinozzo (123lb) and Marvel Hero (123lb) by a neck and the same.
Cruz is hopeful that a repeat of those front-running tactics under regular rider Matthew Chadwick might pay dividends once again.
“Matthew knows this horse very well, he knows exactly what to do and he’ll ride him like he has done before. The horse has shown us that he likes Happy Valley, he races with enthusiasm there,” Cruz said.
“He’s still in good form and if anything he’s calmed down a bit more since his last run, he’s much more professional now. He’s a straightforward horse, he’s had no setbacks, I’m happy with what he’s showing me and he has a nice weight so he has every chance.”
The Golden Age steps up to Pattern grade for the first time in Hong Kong. But the compact chestnut already has a G3 score to his name overseas, having taken the Prix la Rochette (1400m) at Saint-Cloud as a juvenile.
Another G3 winner in the field of 11 is last year’s January Cup victor Harbour Master (123lb). The John Moore-trained galloper will line up along with stablemate and G1 winner Eagle Way (133lb). Tommy Berry partnered Eagle Way to finish eighth in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) last start but will be aboard the eight-year-old Harbour Master this time.
“After I rode Harbour Master last start I wasn’t overly confident about him going into this race, but I was a lot more confident after his gallop,” Berry said. “He was quite fresh in his gallop; it felt like a fresh pair of legs not an old pair of legs. Hopefully he can return to his old form.”
But the Moore stable’s retained jockey is clear about which of the yard’s two contenders is the standout.
“No comparison,” he said, “I think Eagle Way’s going really well. It was a very good run in the Vase, and off a bit of a setback as well, so he’s stripped a lot fitter for that. His gallops have been really good in between runs.”
Zac Purton takes the ride on the Siu Pak Kwan-owned Eagle Way. The former champion partnered Time Warp to win last month’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup for Siu’s son, Martin Siu.
The Caspar Fownes-trained Marvel Hero, the mount of Joao Moreira, is 3lb better off with The Golden Age for a half-length defeat two starts back and was a solid fifth to BMW Hong Kong Derby entrant Singapore Sling over 1650m at the venue last time. The course and distance winner will break from gate three.
The Cruz-trained Romantic Touch (127lb) was second in the 2016 January Cup when rated 105 and finished fifth last term off a mark of 110. The seven-year-old is now rated 104 and heads in fresh after a sound sixth to rising star Fifty Fifty over a mile at Sha Tin in November. The handler has also engaged the smart Class 2 galloper General Sherman (113lb).
Doyeni (120lb) was last seen running seventh behind Werther in the G2 Jockey Club Cup (2000m) in November; Packing Dragon (119lb) is seeking a return to form for a fifth course and distance score; the in-form six-year-old Citron Spirit (116lb), a G3 winner in Germany as a two-year-old, steps up to 1800m for the first time; and course and distance winner Pikachu (113lb) completes the line-up.
Happy Valley’s eight-race card kicks off at 11.15am with the Class 5 Paterson Handicap (1000m).