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Russian Emperor begins march towards LONGINES HKIR feature

October 14, 2022, 4:16:26 AM

Plotting a precise pathway towards LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on 11 December with crack stayer Russian Emperor, Douglas Whyte holds modest expectations for Hong Kong’s Champion Stayer in the G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (16 October).

Plotting a precise pathway towards LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on 11 December with crack stayer Russian Emperor, Douglas Whyte holds modest expectations for Hong Kong’s Champion Stayer in the G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (16 October).
A dual Group 1 winner last season, regally-bred Russian Emperor will be partnered for the first time on Sunday by Lyle Hewitson following the five-year-old’s regular rider Blake Shinn’s decision to return to Australia.
While Whyte has earmarked this weekend’s HK$5 million feature as a stepping stone for Russian Emperor towards either the HK$34 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) or the HK$22 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) in December, the outing will be just as important for Hewitson to build race-day affinity with Russian Emperor.
“Lyle has only had one sit on him in a trial, but Russian Emperor is an uncomplicated horse. He’s just got to be ridden where he’s comfortable. He’s not out there to break any records, you have just got to give him his chance and allow him to hit the line and if he does that, he’ll run a good race,” Whyte said.
“If Lyle can do that, he’ll get a good feel of the horse and understand him and we’ll be on track.”
Hewitson, 24, has posted seven wins this campaign to sit third in the jockeys’ championship behind Zac Purton (23) and Vincent Ho (10) and will jump from barrier eight in what shapes as an intriguing contest on Sunday, when California Spangle will attempt to enhance HK$30 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) claims under all-conquering Purton from gate 12.
For Whyte, Russian Emperor’s seasonal return is an important step towards the Group 1 international fray.
“Russian Emperor has summered very well, he’s improved from last season. Obviously, my main goal is LONGINES International Raceday, so he’ll be very competitive on Sunday, but he’s not going to be 100 percent in this race,” the South African said.
“He’s got 134 pounds, but whatever he does, he always improves from his first run to his second run and his third run is his best run – and that’s the way I’m heading. I couldn’t be happier with him, health-wise and condition-wise.”
As to December and either the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup or the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase, Whyte said: “He’ll be entered for both and I’ll leave my options open.”
Russian Emperor finished sixth in last season’s Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy behind Tony Millard-trained Panfield (127lb), who will begin this Sunday from gate 10 under Silvestre de Sousa.
Along with California Spangle (133lb), championship-leading trainer Tony Cruz will be represented by Beauty Joy (129lb), who will jump from barrier 14 under Luke Currie.
Sunday’s (16 October) 10-race card at Sha Tin starts with the Class 4 Corum Excellent Handicap (1200m) at 1pm.