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Flaming Rabbit moves well in trial ahead of potential Hong Kong debut in the Derby

Douglas Whyte will decide on Wednesday whether Flaming Rabbit becomes the first horse to make his Hong Kong debut in the Derby since Lik Rambo in 1996.

The European import moved nicely in a star-studded opening trial at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning, finishing two and a quarter lengths adrift of Group One star California Spangle over 1,000m in his second Hong Kong hit-out, and it is believed the 83-rated four-year-old will get a run in the Derby should Whyte decide to push on.

“He’s a lovely horse. I’m pleased with the way he’s come on from his first trial to the trial this morning. He’s pleased me in the mornings. He does everything right. He’s a thorough gentleman, and I think he’s a nice horse to look forward to,” Whyte said of Flaming Rabbit, who last raced when sixth in September’s Group One Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (1,600m) in France and only arrived in Hong Kong in December.

“I put him in the trial today to see how he’d get through that, and now it’s all how he pulls up in the next day. He’s probably slightly behind. He was a bit delayed in getting here, so it’s been a little bit of a rushed preparation.

“Ultimately, it’s not the ideal preparation. It’s not what I’d want to do, but there’s only one Derby and that’s what owners buy these horses for. I’ll assess things in the next 24 hours, but it’s going to be a tough ask to go straight to a Derby.”

While the Derby field will be revealed by the Jockey Club on Thursday, it was confirmed on Monday that Hong Kong Mile champion California Spangle will have five rivals in what will be a bumper Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) on March 19 – the same day as the Derby.

Fellow Group One winners Wellington, Lucky Sweynesse and Waikuku join California Spangle in the field, as well as Beauty Joy and Courier Wonder.

Wellington also trialled on Tuesday morning, finishing a neck behind California Spangle, and jockey Alexis Badel is pleased with how Richard Gibson’s speedster is travelling ahead of his Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup defence next weekend.

“He ran well. I was happy to let him stretch out a little bit, and obviously, he had a long time between his last two runs. It was good to see him in good condition today,” Badel said.

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