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Hong Kong Derby winner Sky Darci poised ahead of G3 Lion Rock Trophy return

May 28, 2021, 1:01:34 PM

Caspar Fownes believes Sky Darci, the winner of the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), has the quality and agility to capitalize on advantageous weight circumstances and add to the record of younger gallopers in the G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (30 May).

Sky Darci will carry 115lb, a likely 1lb more than his allotted 114lb – a significantly favourable impost, given that four of the race's five winners have carried 118lb or less, with only Ka Ying Star (129lb) carrying more in 2020, when Tony Cruz's charge became the first five-year-old to win the late-season contest.

Fownes is upbeat. Sky Darci, who will be ridden by Joao Moreira, has a chance to add his name to the winners' circle and win his seventh Hong Kong race in 13 attempts.

“I'm overjoyed; he's had a couple of good trials, and he's ready to race,” Fownes said. “He's returned well and well, falling back in trip now, he's got a fresh pair of legs, beautiful little field, he's going to be competitive.” In those kind of races, we still respect our opponents.

“There are a few quality horses in there carrying lesser weight, and obviously at the high end you've got Ka Ying (Star) and More Than This - he seems a wonderful horse as well – but towards the end of the season, the lower weighted horses usually have an edge.

“We recently had a great freshen up with him, and he has the miles in his legs to come back at this trip. More than anything, he's ready to race now, and I'm extremely pleased with him.

“Depending on how he races and how he pulls up, he could have one more race after this. If he puts in a strong performance, there's no reason why I wouldn't give him one more race on June 20th.”

Sky Darci, according to Fownes, has the innate speed to compete when fresh after dropping back from the 2000m Derby trip on March 21.

“I think he might be a fairly clever sprinter — 1200m to 1400m — fresh. That is why, coming back and against older horses, this race will be a little bit of a test for us, but having a handicap should offer us some type of advantage,” he remarked.

“It will surely give us an idea of where we believe he'll be and how far we'll be preparing him for the next season.”

Fownes has 12 entries on Sunday's 10-race programme, trailing John Size 63-65 in the trainers' championship.

“We're going to give it our all. I'm delighted the game has begun. He's doing extremely well, and my stable is starting to heat up. Whatever happens, it will be a close race. “John has had a fantastic season, and my horses are starting to race well,” said the three-time champion trainer.

“There are a couple lads running behind us, cutting at our heels. It'll be a nice six to seven weeks, and we'll be there battling until the last couple of racing days.”

David Hayes debuts Naboo Attack in the Class 2 Amah Rock Handicap (1200m), hoping to continue on the stable's recent momentum with the big horse, who won five of seven starts for Steve Tregea in Australia when running as Command 'N' Conquer.

“He arrived around 1400 pounds, so he's a mammoth of a horse, and we've steadily reduced his weight to around 1360 pounds (lb). He used to race at around 1300 (lb) in Australia, so he still has some room for development. I really didn't want him to lose too much weight too quickly,” Hayes explained.

“It's generally difficult to win on debut in Hong Kong, but he's a big horse with class in training — he may surprise. The speed in Hong Kong is very different from that in Queensland; they run considerably quicker here, and he'll have to run roughly 1m 08.2s to win, which is not easy to achieve on debut.”

Alexis Badel, who is fourth in the jockeys' championship with 53 victories this season, has a full schedule and expects both Decisive Twelve and Trillion Win to race well.

In the second division of the Class 3 Eagle's Nest Handicap, Decisive Twelve goes for his third win in five outings for Chris So (1200m).

“The horse appears to be in fantastic shape, and I am hopeful he can run a nice race again. I believe he is highly adaptable. If the pace is too fast, I can just sit behind the leaders — I can even lead if I want to, it all depends on the speed,” Badel explained.

Manfred Man's Trillion Win faces Naboo Attack in the program's conclusion, and Badel feels the gelding has a lot of potential.

“He's very fit, he's a young, progressing horse, and I feel he has the chance – from a low weight – to win a Class 2 very soon. He's a pretty attractive horse, and he appears to be in excellent condition,” the Frenchman added.

Neil Callan, from Ireland, returns for the first time since April 5th, after riding six times, including Perfect To Great and Apolar Warrior.

“I don't think I've ever had two months off in my life. I've stayed in great shape. I was travelling up to Beas River on occasion and riding still, so I kept an eye on things and saw a lot of racing — it's like riding a bike, you never forget,” he explained.

Because there was no winner of the Triple Trio last Sunday, a prize of more than HK$37 million will be carried over to Sunday's meeting. If there is only one HK$10 winning unit in the pool, the Triple Trio dividend will be over HK$60 million, the most for a Sha Tin meeting since the 2012/13 racing season.

The Class 5 Tsz Wan Shan Handicap kicks off the 10-race day at Sha Tin on Sunday (30 May) at 12.45pm (1800m).