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LJ Confidential: all-star overseas jockeys, the Slipper fits and what price Beauty Eternal?

In this week’s LJ Confidential, Asian Racing Review host Andrew Le Jeune breaks down Sha Tin's features and takes a look at Australia’s biggest two-year-old race.

Jockeys jetting in

Most of the talk this week has been about the Hong Kong Derby but the real race of the day is a Group 1 battle between three great horses – California Spangle, Lucky Sweynesse and Wellington – in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup. 

It isn’t just a battle of three great horses though, it is also a battle between three of the world’s best globetrotting jockeys: Hong Kong’s five-time champion Zac Purton has chosen California Spangle and that has given James McDonald the opportunity on Lucky Sweynesse, while Ryan Moore reunites with Wellington after winning last year’s Hong Kong Sprint on the horse. 

There are five runners in the race and four of them will be ridden by jockeys flying in after riding in Australia on the previous day. The other is ridden by Zac Purton, who turned down rides in Sydney to focus on Derby day. 

It is disappointing for the local riders, but having jockeys of this calibre compete in high stakes races is a real treat. 

As Covid restrictions around the world are eased, we are re-entering an era where the world’s best riders are guns for hire and are relied upon to fly in for big race rides. 

Moore has made a habit of winning Group 1s as a pinch hitter and he has a great chance to add to his big race collection aboard Wellington. Even though Wellington is best known as a 1200-metre sprinter, I actually believe his best distance is 1400 metres, and I think he could even be competitive at a mile. 

A Slipper and a Ferrari

In Australia, former Hong Kong-based jockey Chad Schofield has a great chance to add the Golden Slipper to his resume aboard the Annabel Neasham-trained filly Learning To Fly. 

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Chad Schofield again teams with unbeaten filly Learning To Fly. (Photo by Getty Images)

Learning To Fly is unbeaten in three starts, is raced by Coolmore and is by the breeding giant’s stallion Justify. 

An interesting aside is that a Coolmore promotion promised a Ferrari to the owners of the first horse by Justify to win a Group 1. If the winner is Coolmore, as it could be here, the stud farm’s boss Tom Magnier says he won’t be taking the car for himself! 

The Derby favourite

The last time the Hong Kong Derby was won by a horse rated less than 100 was back in 2000 when Keen Winner won the first 2000 metre Derby, but it will happen again on Sunday as no runner is rated higher than 99. 

Keen Winner did not win again in 29 starts but it’s unlikely this year’s hot Derby favourite, the 94-rated Beauty Eternal, will suffer that same fate: could he start the shortest-priced favourite this century?

Looking at the highest rated horses in the race is usually the easy way to find the Hong Kong Derby winner and even though there isn’t a single runner rated above 100, Beauty Eternal will still dominate the market. The John Size-trained galloper looks like a genuine star of the future. 

What price will Beauty Eternal start? It seems unlikely he will start shorter than the 1.4 that was bet about Collection before he won the 2009 Derby. 

Recent standouts Golden Sixty, Rapper Dragon and Akeed Mofeed started 1.7, 1.8 and 1.8 respectively, and that could be more Beauty Eternal’s mark. 

There are still a few question marks about Beauty Eternal at 2000 metres. The horse has come a long way in a short space of time, and this will be the first time he will be placed under pressure; it is a full field and there could be a strong tempo as he runs into that first turn. 

The biggest rival to Beauty Eternal is Super Sunny Sing, who has drawn barrier nine, and his jockey Vincent Ho will be sitting and stalking Beauty Eternal and Zac Purton. He has drawn a couple of horses wider and trainer Chris So’s instructions to Vincent Ho will likely be very simple, follow him wherever he goes. 

Of the other chances: I actually believe Sword Point is a decent each-way bet. Of the main chances, he is the one with the proven ability at the distance. 

Hugh Bowman steers home Sword Point to land a Sha Tin treble. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

Andrew's Sha Tin Best Bets

Race 7 No.2 Wellington WIN

Race 8 No.5 Sword Point EACH-WAY

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