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Tony Millard’s Chilean superstar begins march to the Hong Kong Derby

He’s made it to the last two Hong Kong Derbies with South American imports and now popular owner Yue Yun-hing is looking to repeat the dose with Panfield.

But while Harmony Victory, who was eighth in the 2019 Derby, and Butterfield (sixth this year) started their careers in Brazil before joining Danny Shum Chap-shing, the Tony Millard-trained Panfield’s Hong Kong debut follows three consecutive Chilean Group One victories.

The four-year-old colt lines up in the Class Two Cheung Hong Handicap (1,650m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night after winning the most recent of his three Hong Kong trials.

“He’s a nice horse, he’ s still a long way away so it’s going to be step by step,” Millard said. “He’s a long-distance horse, he’s a 2,000m, 2,400m horse.

“His trials have been OK but he’s been off for a very long time because he had to go via America to get here.

“The owner bought him for [the Derby]. We’ll go to 1,600m, then 1,800m and then to 2,000m and hopefully he will run into some form.”

Panfield, who hasn’t raced since winning over 2,400m on November 1 last year, and the Shum-trained Hongkong Great are the only two Chilean horses in Hong Kong.

Hongkong Great – who has raced four times in Class Three for a best finish of fourth – also snared three Group One wins in his homeland but was more exposed pre-import, racing 11 times compared to Panfield’s five.

It is the first time Millard has worked with a horse from Chile and the veteran trainer is looking forward to seeing how Panfield, who previously raced as Look Pen, stacks up in Hong Kong.

“Even when I trained in South Africa I don’t think I had a Chilean horse. He’s a very big horse and I just hope that he suits Hong Kong,” said Millard, who has two Hong Kong Derby wins on his resume thanks to Keen Winner (2000) and Ambitious Dragon (2011).

Panfield has drawn gate six in the 11-horse field and will be partnered by Alexis Badel, who has been in the saddle for all of the galloper’s trials.

“He’s a nice horse, he’s got great ability and I think he’s pretty fit for this race so I don’t see any reason he can’t run a good race,” the French jockey said.

“So far he has done everything right so I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes on race day. Happy Valley on debut in a Class Two is never easy but the horse is pretty fit so I expect him to run a good race.”

A stroke of luck sees Panfield lining up against ownermate Butterfield at the city circuit, with the latter carrying the top weight of 133 pounds from the outside gate under Zac Purton.

The five-year-old has had a number of near misses since his Derby run, finishing with a length of the winner on four occasions for three seconds and a fourth.

The gelding steps back in grade and trip after running ninth in the Group Three Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1,800m) earlier this month, with Purton jumping aboard for the first time.

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