Trainer Danny Shum believes that exciting five-year-old Seasons Bloom can take another step towards the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races by defeating some of Hong Kong’s best horses in the Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (October 1).
Seasons Bloom was an impressive winner of the opening day feature, the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup (1200m) on 3 September, showing a deft turn of foot from near last to defeat Sunday’s G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) runner Blizzard. He now steps up to a distance considered more suitable and will jump from gate three with Joao Moreira to ride once again.
“The draw is perfect and from there I think he will be a good chance, especially with the weight he will carry,” Shum said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (29 September). “I’m happy with how he came out of the last run, he’s done everything right since. It’s a very competitive race but he is a chance.”
Shum hopes Seasons Bloom proves himself worthy of a G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile campaign, and is using races like the Celebration Cup and the G2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) later in October to assess the Captain Sonador gelding’s chances.
“These are the sorts of races he needs to be running well in if he is to go to the internationals,” Shum said. “Races like this and the Group 2 mile in a couple of weeks are where he should be able to win with the weight.”
Seasons Bloom (121lb) is one of eight horses coming out of last season’s four-year-old group to line up in Sunday’s G3 feature, a traditional starting point on the road to December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races.
Trainer John Moore saddles up last season’s G3 winners Eagle Way (118lb) and Booming Delight, as well as BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) third Beauty Generation (113lb), out of last year’s classic crop, and believes that Booming Delight is the pick of those three.
“I was worried about the short off-season with him because I thought he might have needed longer, but he has really come to hand quickly,” said Moore, who also has G3 winner Harbour Master (113lb) lining up. “Booming Delight trialled strongly and his weight is not much above his peak spot. We’ll aim towards the Hong Kong Mile with him, going through all the usual races, but don’t be surprised if he runs a terrific race fresh on Sunday.”
Booming Delight (113lb) was beaten a length and three quarters last start by Time Warp (113lb) in the Class 1 Sha Tin Mile Trophy at the season finale in July. That day, Time Warp conceded 11 pounds to Booming Delight, but they are set to meet at level weights on Sunday.
Time Warp’s trainer Tony Cruz indicated he sees this race as a stepping stone to races like the Sha Tin Trophy and the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m).
“Once they get up to the rating where he is now, 105-plus, there aren’t many races,” Cruz said. “So I think this will be too short for him and I think he will need the run, but there’s nowhere else to go. He does have a light weight, though.”
He was more optimistic about the hopes of Winner’s Way (117lb), who enters Sunday’s feature with a run under his belt, having finished second to Jolly Banner in the Class 1 Kwangtung Handicap Cup (1400m) on 10 September.
“He’s the fittest of my horses going into this race, I’m very happy with him,” Cruz said. “This is his distance and I think he’s well suited at the weights. I’m expecting a big run.”
John Size has Western Express (113lb) set to jump from barrier one, with the trainer concerned about the inside gate for his 1270-pound behemoth.
“I think he’s up to the class under handicap conditions, he carries a very light weight,” Size said. “He’s drawn on the inside though which is probably not suitable for a very big horse, but if he can get a clear run, he will be in the finish.”
New Asia Sunrise (113lb) completes the octet representing last season’s four-year-olds in the 13-strong field.
Among the older brigade are four G1 winners – last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Mile winner Beauty Only (133lb), 2016 Stewards’ Cup victor Giant Treasure (123lb) and veteran Romantic Touch (116lb), all for Cruz, as well as Size’s Champions Mile victor Contentment (132lb).
The G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) is the eighth of 10 races and is scheduled to jump at 4.40pm. It will be preceded by the G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) at 4.05pm.
Source: The Hong Kong Jockey Club (Andrew Hawkins)