Graham Cunningham brings us an in-depth guide to the G1 Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin on Sunday - live on Sky Sports Racing at 8.35am GMT.
Hundred Club hold the key as Sixty bids for HK Derby glory
- The HK Derby moved from 1800m to 2000m in the year 2000. Since then, several clear patterns have emerged.
- Shocks are very rare. Nineteen of the last 20 winners started at 6.5 or shorter, while 12 of 20 were under 3/1.
- The 100 Club dominates. Keen Winner in 2000 was the last winner without a triple digit rating. Only three horses are rated 100 plus this year - Golden Sixty, Champion's Way and More Than This.
- The draw is a factor - but not a crucial factor. Low to middle stalls are preferred as the first bend comes up swiftly but the elite tend to find a way and all this year's main hopes are drawn 9 or lower.
- The Derby is seldom run at an end-to-end gallop, which can assist suspect stayers, and this year is unlikely to be an exception. World Famous, Playa Del Puente and Reliable Team look likely front runners. Zac Purton is hoping the inside draw will help More Than This race more handily, while Joao Moreira will settle Champion's Way in midfield and Vincent Ho will aim to pounce late again on Golden Sixty.
GC’s Runner-by-Runner guide to Sunday’s Sha Tin showpiece
(8.35am, Sky Sports Racing)
Official rating: 112
What's not to like apart from a short price? Golden Sixty has won nine from ten and settled the first two legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic series - the Classic Mile and Cup - with a killer turn of foot. That Classic Cup success over 1800m came after a setback two weeks earlier, where he spiked a temperature, and only this race will tell whether the big effort he produced to quicken out of trouble has left a mark. That aside, it's hard to think 2000m will be beyond him and his official rating gives him 4lb plus in hand of the field.
Official rating: 108
Thrived last season and has gradually returned to his peak of late, having every chance when placed under Karis Teetan and Ryan Moore in the Classic Mile and the Classic Cup. Joao Moreira takes over now, while trainer John Size harbours slight stamina concerns for 2000m. Sure to run another honest race but whether he can improve enough to beat his main rivals at the longer trip remains to be seen.
More Than This
Official rating: 107
Highly regarded when unbeaten in three as a juvenile for Richard Fahey and has blossomed after a slow start in HK, storming down the outside to win three big handicaps before running very well from the widest draw to finish second and third in the Classic Mile and Classic Cup. A big, lengthy sort who's thriving physically, he wears cheekpieces (as recommended by Zac Purton) now and has the inside draw. Add in the step up to 2000m as another positive and he looks one of very few capable of putting up stern resistance to a peak-form Golden Sixty.
Official rating: 95
Excelled for Paddy Twomey when third behind Phoenix of Spain and Too Darn Hot in last year's Irish Guineas and has shown bags of promise without winning in four HK starts, the latest when conceding 8lb to highly promising Super Wealthy over 1400m. Dubbed 'The Small Cannon" by new connections, he can travel strongly for a long way if tucked away from the outside draw. However, as a son of Dark Angel from a family rammed with sprinters, his ability to deliver a telling shot on his 2000m debut has to be questionable.
Official rating: 94
Form of Goodwood Listed defeat of Spanish Mission has been franked and, after a solid Royal Ascot fourth behind high-class Japan, he came out swinging on his HK debut with an impressive Happy Valley success. However, edgy disposition has reared its head in two subsequent starts and failed to respond after being short of room in the Classic Cup. Patient ride likely from stall 13 and has the raw ability to run better than long price indicates - provided he holds it all together.
Playa Del Puente
Official rating: 93
Progressed quickly to win three from four for Michael Halford and didn't take long to make a splash in HK, making all in impressive style at Happy Valley in October and running well in good company several times since. Set to show up boldly for a long way but has lengths to find with the Classic Cup principals and hard to know where he can make up the leeway.
Official rating: 91
Soon made up into a useful performer in native NZ and has shown useful form in a light HK campaign, battling on strongly when going down narrowly in a four-way photo behind Amazing Beats over course and distance on Classic Cup day last month. Hefty pull should enable him to reverse form with winner and capable of progressing again, though split time analysis drops a broad hint that he has much to find to beat Golden Sixty and co.
Official rating: 91
G2 winner in New Zealand prior to fine third in Australian Derby. Hasn't quite matched that level in HK yet but has caught the eye in good handicaps more than once, most recently when just behind Amazing Beats and Columbus County in wild finish over course and distance. Proven stayer who travels well and makes much more appeal than most of the longshots as four-time Brazilian champion Vagner Borges bids to strike on his Derby debut.
Official rating: 90
Already has one Derby in the bag courtesy of a Derby Paulista success in Brazil and has progressed in five HK starts, beating Columbus County narrowly with Super Oasis close up in fourth over 1800m here in February. Well placed from the off from the inside draw that day, so more to prove from stall 12, but on the upgrade and can progress again over a trip that suits.
Official rating: 86
Another ex-Kiwi and one who hasn’t managed to build on a very promising winning start in HK. Moves up in trip but hasn’t been finishing his races off over shorter and hard to see anything different in this deep pool.
Official rating: 86
Tasmanian Derby winner in 2018 and showed plenty of devil to burrow home up the inside in a desperate finish over course and distance on latest start. Stamina no concern but has plenty to find with Columbus County and Super Oasis at levels and hard to see him being up to this task.
Official rating: 86
Smart handicapper with an uncomplicated running style but well held in Classic Cup and had no excuses again when sixth in Class 2 handicap two weeks ago. Should be left behind when the pressure increases.
Official rating: 83
Useful form for William Haggas when known as Insandi and bids to give legendary HK handler John Moore a seventh Derby – 25 years after his first - in his farewell season. Scores well on the romance scale but loads to find on all known form and very hard to envisage the fairytale finale.
Official rating: 80
Two from four when known as Master Brewer for Michael Bell included a Longchamp listed success and has picked up a couple of wins in HK, including a narrow success here in February. Has an important tactical role to play as the likely front runner but that’s surely as far as it goes given that he’s clear bottom rated with little obvious scope for major improvement.