Vincent Ho chases a sixth G1 for the season in the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup
May 21, 2021, 12:22:45 PM
When partnering Glorious Dragon in the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, Vincent Ho will look to round off the most fruitful Hong Kong G1 season of his illustrious career (23 May).
With five G1 trophies already under his belt for the 2020/21 season, victory on Francis Lui's Glorious Dragon will enable the seasoned horseman to match Joao Moreira's 2014/15 feat of landing six G1 winners in a Hong Kong season.
Zac Purton is the only jockey in recent years to have seen more consistent results at the top level, winning seven of the jurisdiction's 12 seasonal G1s in 2018/19.
Purton won four G1 races aboard Beauty Generation (LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, Stewards' Cup, Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup, and FWD Champions Mile) and the rest aboard Exultant (LONGINES Hong Kong Vase, Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup and the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup).
Moreira won six G1 races in 2014/15, including Able Friend (LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, Stewards' Cup, Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup, and Champions Mile) and Designs On Rome (LONGINES Hong Kong Cup and Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup.)
Ho, 30, has five G1 wins in 2020/21, four with Golden Sixty (LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, Stewards' Cup, Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, and FWD Champions Mile) and the FWD QEII Cup on Japan's Loves Only You.
With 49 wins so far this season, Ho downplayed the possibility of matching Moreira's feat as he considered Glorious Dragon's chances.
“It's still too early to worry about the sixth (G1), but I'm going to do whatever I can to make it possible on Sunday. “I have a fair shot with the grey horse,” he said. “Of course, Glorious Dragon has a fair chance because he's in great shape.
“I've been training with him on the lawn and this morning on the dirt, and he's doing well. I believe he would be really successful due to his favorable draw (barrier three). I don't think the 2400 metres would be a challenge for him, and he can still have a decent change of foot in the straight and be really quick.
“I believe he will be fiercely competitive.”
Purton will partner Exultant in pursuit of a third Champions & Chartered Cup victory on Sunday if he is declared fit to ride after sustaining a back complaint at the Happy Valley meeting on Wednesday (19 May).
Moreira mounts Caspar Fownes' Columbus County in the hopes of resuming a fruitful partnership.
“He's a fine horse, I've ridden him a couple times and won with him, so I know he's got it,” the Brazilian said. “He just needs a few things to fall into line and help him out, and I have no doubt he has a decent shot of winning there.
“There are a few horses that are very good there. The gap will determine who the best stayer in town is – and he may be the one. I’m quite excited to be riding him at the weekend.”
Moreira believes Columbus County's eighth-place finish in the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) was higher than it seems.
“He was a little unfortunate because the pace didn't suit him, and he got sort of held up turning for home, which took a little bit of his chances, but the distance he finished from the winner wasn't great – it was three and a quarter lengths,” he said.
“Under natural conditions, he will be right there. Don't forget he was bearing the heaviest weight (133lbs). That gives me hope that he will be as good as, if not better than, the horses who finished ahead of him in the Queen Mother.
“In reality, Exultant is the best stayer in town. His record proves that, and even though his form isn't the best right now, he still deserves a lot of respect.”
Moreira, who leads the jockeys' championship by 18 wins – 128 to Purton's 110 – is sure Killer Bee will finish the 11-race card in style with victory in the Class 3 River Verdon Handicap (1200m) on a card where the South American also partners rising star Courier Wonder in the G3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m).
“I think he's (Killer Bee) a horse for everyone else to get excited about in the near future,” Moreira said, noting the gelding's nine-pound weight increase to 127 pounds after his impressive last-start victory.
“There is a lot of optimism. If he can repeat his previous performance, he will be likely to win again. The extra weight on his back would not have a significant impact on his chances. He's such a huge and sturdy horse that he won't have any trouble carrying that.
“It seems that he will go there with a great winning opportunity once more.”
The Pakistan Star Plate (1200m) for Griffins kicks off Sunday's 11-race card at 12.30pm at Sha Tin.
Thanks to a partial victory last Sunday, a jackpot of over HK$21.5 million will be carried over to the Triple Trio for this Sunday's race meeting (16 May). The expected dividend for a single HK$10 winning unit could surpass HK$38 million, which would be the highest dividend for a Sha Tin day meeting since the 2016/17 racing season.