Joao Moreira stuck with Sky Darci throughout last year’s Classic Series and was rewarded with Hong Kong Derby glory and the Brazilian may again look to play the long game after committing to the John Size-trained Master Delight for the Classic Mile.
Moreira produced impressive victories aboard probable Classic Mile runners Sight Spirit and Romantic Warrior at Sha Tin on Sunday and was faced with a tough decision, but opted to stick with the highest-rated of the trio.
“I’m not sure if he can win the Classic Mile but he will be very well placed when he steps up in distance,” the Magic Man said of Master Delight.
“He hasn’t had much luck in his last couple of races, the pace of the race hasn’t been to suit him but the connections believe in this horse.
“There are three races [in the four-year-old series] and I have no doubt in one of those races Master Delight will be very competitive and if he runs a good race in the Classic Mile, I will consider riding him in the Classic Cup.”
The mounts aboard Romantic Warrior and Sight Spirit will no doubt be sought after, while with Zac Purton committing to Packing Victory before his win aboard the impressive California Spangle on Sunday, Matthew Chadwick will jump back aboard Tony Cruz’s speedster after winning on him the start prior.
Chadwick is well-placed to strike in a big race in the next fortnight, with California Spangle joining Master Eight in his arsenal, who the in-form local jockey will ride in Sunday’s Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m).
There were no great surprises among Monday’s entries for the first leg of the four-year-old series, with all the leading hopes included for the HK$12 million feature on January 30.
The likes of Senor Toba, S J Tourbillon, The Golden Scenery and Captain Win will bypass the Classic Mile but remain in Derby calculations.
California Spangle’s scintillating victory rockets him to the top of the ratings on 101 and with things highly likely to remain that way he will be the lowest top-rated runner in the race since President Lincoln sported the number one saddlecloth off a mark of 97 in 2013.
Fantastic Treasure (97) and Ima Single Man (90) are next in line while Blaze Warrior and Packing Victory (both 89), Fa Fa (88) and Master Delight (86) are the others rated north of 85.
The lowest-rated winner of the race in the past decade was Gold-Fun off a mark of 91 in 2013 and only four horses with double-figure ratings have saluted in that time, suggesting the winning chances in this renewal are limited, but Purton for one is confident there is depth in the four-year-old ranks.
“It looks like it’s going to be a strong year this year, there’s a lot of really nice horses coming through so I think we’re going to be in for a good spectacle and a good fight,” he said.
With 14 runners set to go to post, Tony Millard’s Cobhfield and Sight Spirit on 79 sneak in and Money Catcher, Mr Ascendency, Turin Redsun and Champion Dragon are outside the cut-off as it stands.
A couple of gallopers inside the top 14 from a ratings perspective will race this week, with the Caspar Fownes-trained Rocket Spade lining up at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Setanta entered for a Class Two 1,400m contest on Sunday.
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