Senor Toba’s emergence as a legitimate Hong Kong Derby contender continued at Sha Tin

Former Aussie galloper stars at Sha Tin

28th December 2021 3:31pm

Senor Toba’s emergence as a legitimate BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) contender continued at Sha Tin on Monday (27 December) with the grey’s stout victory in the Class 2 Hong Kong Sports Institute 30th Anniversary Cup Handicap (2000m), fuelling Caspar Fownes and Joao Moreira’s hopes of successive triumphs in the Classic.

Fownes and Moreira combined last season with Sky Darci and the pair is optimistic Senor Toba can emulate the feat with success on 20 March in the HK$24 million contest next year.

“He’s one of my Derby horses. He’s a lovely horse, it’s nice to see them come and do that in their third run in Hong Kong. It was a very pleasing effort. He was a little bit like a drunken sailor down the straight – all over the place – so I’ll be looking at putting some equipment on him to help him focus a little better,” Fownes said.

“He did his job nicely but he’s a horse that will keep improving. You’ll probably see the best of him in December but this is his Derby season, so we’ll be going forward to try to get a good result there. But this horse, I think once he gets over 2400 (metres), he’s a very good horse and he’ll keep improving.”

Last season’s champion trainer, Fownes might bypass the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on 30 January with Senor Toba to avoid a drop in distance.

“It’s the Four-Year-Old Classic Series and he’s secured his place there now – but he needs a little bit more racing. I’ve just got to tweak his equipment a little bit to sharpen him up, he’s a little slow out of the gates – we’ve got to get that sorted out,” Fownes said.

“You can get away with it over a longer distance but when you come back to a mile it becomes tough. In saying that, we have to be happy, we’ve got a nice horse going forward.

“I just wanted to get the points on the board for this horse and then I can worry about training him for the one big race – his target is the Derby – so he’ll be spot on for that race, the rest of it will be gravy.

“He’s the type of horse who will be better suited with a good speed on and then he’ll sustain a long run – which you’ll get in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series. All-in-all we’re happy, we’ve got something really good to work with there, so it’s exciting.”

Moreira, who now leads Zac Purton in the jockeys’ championship 51-49 after erasing a 10-win deficit in the injured Australian’s absence, said: “He’s a real stayer, he doesn’t have early speed, obviously, but we had a smooth run from a good gate.

“He quickened nicely but I still feel he there is more improvement to come. He feels like he is 75-80 percent. He doesn’t need to improve too much more to be competitive in the Hong Kong Derby.

“He has already ready proven to be a quality stayer. Not too many horses win third-up in Class 2, as he did just now.”

Runner-up in the G1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm Racecourse on 29 May, Senor Toba was trained in Australia by Chris Waller – handler of Winx and Verry Elleegant.

Ricky Yiu believes Prime Minister, winner of the Class 3 Hong Kong Elite Athletes Cup Handicap (1400m), will handle the rise to higher grades after saluting with a devastating finish under Derek Leung.

“I gave the jockey one instruction – I told him not to come back if he didn’t win,” Yiu joked. “We decided to take a chance and ride him back in the field because horses today have been able to win from out wide.

“He drew gate 14, so we had to go back and ride him that way and it worked out perfectly. I was a bit worried when he was a few lengths behind the second-last horse but when he started to make ground, my confidence grew.

“It’s very promising and hopefully he can keep going up in Class 2.”

Contesting his 11th race in Hong Kong, Prime Minister had mixed his form after building an imposing record in New Zealand when he raced as Mac Attacka and won four of five starts for Chris Gibbs & Michelle Bradley.

Fownes and Moreira also combined successfully with Galaxy Witness, a Star Witness first-starter, in the Class 4 Boccia 1000m Handicap.

“He’s a progressive, nice horse,” Fownes said. “It’s tough to win first-up in Hong Kong and he did it nicely.”

Moreira continued his championship surge aboard lightly-raced Sight Spirit, who had three lengths to spare over his rivals in the second section of the Class 4 Table Tennis 1400m Handicap for John Size.

Untold Riches repaid Jimmy Ting’s faith in the Class 4 Badminton 1200m Handicap under Keith Yeung. The Swiss Ace gelding has endured several issues since debuting in Hong Kong in September, 2020 but was finally able to produce his best after a five-month let-up.

Kasi Farasi underlined his affinity with Sha Tin’s seven-furlong course with victory under Alfred Chan for Dennis Yip in the Class 4 Fencing 1400m Handicap. It was the Reward For Effort gelding’s fifth win over the track and distance.

Winless in his first 16 starts, Brave Power made it two victories in as many attempts with success in the Class 5 Swimming 1400m Handicap (1400m) for Tony Cruz and Vincent Ho.

Benno Yung notched his 13th win of the season when Dragon Pride broke through in the Class 5 Cycling 1400m Handicap. Delivered from the rear of the field by Matthew Chadwick, the son of Sebring drove hard late to overhaul Sunny Baby and Super Kin.

Douglas Whyte credited Blake Shinn for Carroll Street’s victory in the Class 3 Equestrian 1000m Handicap, the Outreach gelding’s fourth success over the straight course.

“It was a great ride by Blake,” Whyte, the 13-time champion jockey said. “The win was subject to Blake’s ride.”

Ho sealed a double – and his 22nd win of the campaign – when Frankie Lor’s All Beauty overcame Perfect Pair in the Class 3 Karate 1400m Handicap, the All Too Hard gelding’s second victory in six starts.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Wednesday night (29 December) for an eight-race all-dirt programme under lights.

RS NewsWire