Sunday’s Hong Kong Classic Cup is meant to be the official ‘Derby Trial’ but, from a Hong Kong Derby perspective, there will be more at stake when Beauty Eternal tackles the 1600-metre Class 2 on the same program.
When Beauty Eternal was a late scratching after kicking out in the barriers at this year’s January 1 meeting at Sha Tin, dislodging jockey Zac Purton and bursting through the gates, it seemed like any chance of Derby glory was gone.
The horse was rated 65 and had already suffered a setback in November when withdrawn from a race due to lameness. Besides, the gelding had never been beyond 1200 metres in his two starts.
Beauty Eternal has overcome those issues to establish himself as Hong Kong racing’s most exciting new talent. First a win over 1200 metres put him near the top of Class 3, then a flawless performance two weeks ago had ratings geeks going ‘ga-ga’ and put the Kwok-owned horse into ratings calculations for the Derby.
The win also sent Beauty Eternal up the Asian Racing Report Hong Kong Derby Rankings to second, behind Hong Kong Classic Mile runner-up Tuchel.
There is still one step to go before the big one: trainer John Size, who is at once cautious and unconventional, has chosen to skip the Hong Kong Classic Cup at 1800 metres and opt for the mile against older horses.
Size’s previous two Derby winners, Luger and Ping Hai Star, both came via the handicaps and not through the four-year-old series but to take Beauty Eternal from a rating of 65 in late January to a Derby win on March 19 would have to rank among the best of many incredible training performances.
Sunday’s Classic Cup is ‘D-Day’ for a number of horses in the top 14 of the Hong Kong Derby Rankings. Most come though the Hong Kong Classic Mile, which Voyage Bubble won after a brilliant front running ride by Jamie Kah.
The Classic Cup is renowned for its upsets and could again shake up the rankings, but if Beauty Eternal performs as many experts suggest he will, there will be a new clear top seed next week.
Atullibigeal 增有 (85)
The only new entrant to this pre-Classic Cup edition of our rankings is last Sunday’s Class 3 mile winner Atullibigeal, who actually won the race Beauty Eternal was a late scratching for on January 1. A new rating of 85 following Sunday’s stylish win should be enough to make this year’s Derby field, but trainer David Hall still has the option of next week’s 1800-metre Class 2 (105-80).