Chasing a second BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) triumph, Frankie Lor is upbeat ahead of the HK$24 million Classic at Sha Tin on Sunday (19 March) despite the contrasting form lines of Sword Point and Keefy.
Lor agrees Sword Point, to be ridden by Hugh Bowman, is clearly his stable`s top contender based on recent form, a favourable barrier (six) and performance over the Derby trip (unbeaten from one attempt at 2000m in Australia).
“Sword Point is a really good horse for me at this moment. He`s already won over 2000 metres in Australia (at Rosehill Racecourse in January, 2022), so we don`t need to worry about the distance. The horse is fit and the jockey is in good form,” Hong Kong`s reigning champion trainer said.
“I think every trainer, jockey and owner all want to win the Derby. Of course, I want to win again. It depends on whether the horse is good enough and usually the good jockeys know what to do in the race, so it`s easier to leave it with them.”
Lor and Bowman combined to land the BMW Hong Kong Derby with Furore in 2019 and appear to have a strong chance again with Sword Point.
With an 1800m victory to his credit at Sha Tin on 8 January, Sword Point was a creditable sixth in a tempo-dictated Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on 29 January behind Voyage Bubble in the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series before a brave second to Super Sunny Sing in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on 26 February.
Keefy, who will be partnered by Derek Leung from gate five, has finished seventh and 13th in the first two legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, prompting Lor to change the previously consistent gelding`s trackwork.
“Keefy at his last two runs has been quite disappointing, so I`ve had him fully checked and we couldn`t find anything, so I`ll give him a chance again,” Lor said.
“We have changed his training to try to get him to relax behind other horses. The last two races, he has been a little bit too keen and wanted to fight with the jockey so this time we need to get him to relax and I hope he can run better.”
Hopeful of joining an impressive list of compatriots to win the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), including Douglas Whyte, Felix Coetzee, Weichong Marwing, Basil Marcus and Robbie Fradd, Lyle Hewitson is excited ahead of his first ride in the Classic when he partners David Hayes-trained Bon`s A Pearla.
“It`s my first ride in the Derby. Last year in the Derby was reserve one, Boom Alliance,” Hewitson said. “But it`s nice to be on Bon`s A Pearla. She`s a horse with credentials but she hasn`t stepped up to that mark here and we bump into a few smart horses but she`s a genuine horse so it`s good to be aboard one like her.”
Richard Gibson retains telling faith in Wellington as Hong Kong`s Champion Sprinter (2021/22) prepares to tackle the HK$12 million G1 Queen`s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m), the second leg of the Hong Kong Speed Series.
“I`m very happy with him, his ‘prep` has been very smooth. I thought it was a good trial last week and he`s the defending champion, so I`m looking forward to the race,” Gibson said.
“All I do is look at his very, very impressive race record and the fact he`s the defending champ. I think you`ve got to be a very good horse to beat Wellington.”
Attempting to secure a fifth Group 1, Wellington will be ridden by Ryan Moore as he faces fellow Group 1 victors California Spangle (Zac Purton), Lucky Sweynesse (James McDonald) and Waikuku (Damian Lane) in a field completed by Courier Wonder (Blake Shinn).
Sunday`s (19 March) meeting at Sha Tin starts with the Class 4 Sky Darci Handicap (1200m) at 1pm.