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Derby field all but set after quiet Sunday, Dubai off for Sky Field and Alberto Sanna eyes Hong Kong




Not a single four-year-old with a Hong Kong Derby entry was able to stake a claim for a spot in the city’s most prestigious race at Sha Tin on Sunday, with the poor performance – and subsequent removal from the entries – of Viva Chaleur the only thing of any note to come out of the weekend.


It’s believed every other galloper with a rating high enough to earn a spot in the Derby has held its ground ahead of Thursday’s official “selections announcement” – even the Douglas Whyte-trained Flaming Rabbit.


With a rating of 83, Flaming Rabbit is safely in the field – unless the Jockey Club’s selection panel uses its discretion to exclude him – but the four-year-old colt hasn’t run since finishing sixth in the Group One Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (1,600m) in France in September last year.


The last horse to make his Hong Kong debut in the Derby was Lik Rambo in 1996 and there’ll be a couple of trainers sweating on whether Flaming Rabbit – who trials on Tuesday – lines up on March 19.


With Keefy, Beauty Eternal, Super Sunny Sing, Voyage Bubble, Sword Point, Tuchel, Beautyverse, Galaxy Witness, Sweet Encounter, Atullibigeal, Flagship Warrior, Encountered and Straight Arron joining Flaming Rabbit as the 14 gallopers with the highest ratings, it’s the David Hayes-trained Bon’s A Pearla and Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Majestic Colour who sit just outside the field on 80 points.


Bon’s A Pearla and Majestic Colour were only serviceable when finishing seventh and ninth, respectively, in last month’s Classic Cup but certainly don’t look like they’ll be out of place in a Derby, so it’ll be intriguing to see which way Jockey Club officials go come Thursday.


No Dubai for Sky Field


While Senor Toba remains on track for the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic (2,410) on Dubai World Cup night later this month, Caspar Fownes has aborted plans to run stablemate Sky Field in the Group One Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) on the same card.


Sky Field and the John Size-trained Sight Success had accepted for the race, but Fownes has instead decided to press pause with the six-year-old Group One winner.

“He’s had some joint issues, so we’ve just decided to pull the pin and give him some time off,” Fownes said.


“We did our scans and he’s OK, but he’s just a bit reactive, so I don’t want to push on. He’s missed some work, so it’s not ideal, and I decided to give him a few quiet weeks in Conghua. He might come back and have one run before the end of the season or I might put him away. It just depends.”


The absence of Sky Field could potentially help the cause of Pierre Ng Pang-chi’s Duke Wai, who is sweating on an Al Quoz invite after saluting at Sha Tin on Sunday.


Sanna to apply for HK return


Alberto Sanna is hoping his recent association with a couple of Hong Kong gallopers can strengthen his case for a return to the city, with the Italian jockey confirming he’ll put in a licence application after the Dubai World Cup.Sanna partnered that galloper into fifth in the Group One Jebel Hatta and Senor Toba to finish eighth in the Group Two Dubai City Of Gold at Meydan on Saturday night.

Over three years have passed since Sanna left Hong Kong after the Jockey Club chose not to relicense him soon after stewards whacked him with a 10-meeting ban for “not taking all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing” aboard Dances With Dragon in November 2019.


“The way I left was really sad for me. I didn’t like it. I can’t change anything now by words. The best way is by riding winners,” said Sanna, who has had plenty of success – including a premiership – in Qatar since leaving Hong Kong.


“Definitely, I’d like to apply for a stint [in Hong Kong], but the decision is out of my hands. I’ll apply and then I’ll see what happens. I want to finish the season well here in Qatar, so probably after the Dubai World Cup I’ll apply for the last three or four months of the season in Hong Kong.”


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