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Renewed rivalry as Healthy Happy and Sky Darci lock horns again in Sunday’s G3 Premier Cup

June 15, 2021, 1:44:33 PM

Following their thrilling one-two finish in last month's G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m), Healthy Happy and Sky Darci will continue their growing rivalry in Sunday's (20 June) HK$3.5 million G3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m).

Following an exhausting season that included the demanding three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the pair rose to the challenge against more experienced rivals to stake their claims as Hong Kong's "generation next," fighting out one of the season's most exciting finishes, which Sky Darci won by a short head.

“I felt he (Healthy Happy) was going to come back for a little while, but he continued running great, fought very hard, and he's still a very young and progressive horse, he still has a lot to grow - I feel he's going to be a top horse for next season,” jockey Alexis Badel said.

The juveniles, helped by a fortuitous draw in the weights last time out, find themselves farther up the handicap this time as they prepare for the annual end-of-season seven furlong G3.

“It was a wonderful effort from the horse; it was a tactical race since the pace wasn't very quick; it was quite gradual, and he sprinted very well; the winner is a very excellent horse with a very swift change of foot,” Badel remarked.

Healthy Happy has one victory over Sky Darci in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), while Sky Darci has two, the first in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) before last month's G3 over the mile.

“In a handicap race, carrying 114 (pounds) is usually a major benefit, and obviously having a horse with a little of quality makes a significant difference; in my opinion, he is a very nice horse, and he will keep growing - there's something there,” Badel said.

Trainer Frankie Lor has been similarly pleased with the Zoustar gelding, who has three wins in Hong Kong, including one earlier this season over 1400m at Sha Tin.

“He's retained his form and he's doing pretty well, at least you can tell he's maintained progressing, so I'm extremely happy,” Lor said, adding that the winner who beaten him was the Derby winner.

“After this performance, he'll be put away for next season, and he'll continue to run in Group races with his rating from now on,” Lor said.

While he has already impressed both Badel and Lor this season, the duo agrees that with further development, he might be viewed as a potential top-liner in Hong Kong.

“He's got fantastic ability, and he'll take advantage of the offseason - he'll come back stronger, he's already extremely powerful, and I feel he'll be one of the excellent ones for next season,” Badel added.

The 109-rater came in Hong Kong as Leviathan, a two-time winner in Australia under the supervision of Peter and Paul Snowden.

“He requires a smooth run, and because he's so simple to ride, you're not scared to place him without cover or when stepping away from a terrible draw.

“He can be positive and use his huge action, so I think the key to him is a smooth run, and as long as he is happy and sound, he will give 100 percent,” Badel said.

Badel, who won the G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m) riding Wellington on FWD Champions Day (25 April), is seeking to add to his record of big-race victories before the season ends on Wednesday, July 14 at Happy Valley.

“He's showed his form over 1400 metres in Class 2 in the past, so I think he has decent early speed, and we don't have to lead all of the time, so I think it can be interesting this weekend as we come back in distance with a little of pace in the race and then not reach the front too quickly.

“He's quite versatile, so I must say he can run well between 1400 and 1800 metres; it shouldn't be a problem, and he's still a young horse, so we felt it would be a good idea to let him enjoy a nice pace over shorter,” Badel explained.

Sky Field, Champion's Way, Lucky Patch, Buddies, Mighty Giant, Jolly Banner, Voyage Warrior, Not Usual Talent, and Rattan are also entered for Sunday's Premier Cup Handicap.

Badel will also compete in the afternoon's other G3 race, the Premier Plate Handicap (1800m), aboard Fast Most Furious, while Frankie Lor will ride Reliable Team in that same nine furlong test.

“This season, he's been steady, he's always near, and he's also simple to train, but I think it'll be a tough race this time, especially against Southern Legend,” Lor remarked.

The grey has six wins from 23 starts in Hong Kong, including a win three runs ago at 48/1 under Derek Leung in a tough Class 2 event over the mile.