Butterfield blooms as Derby clues continue
Brazilian references on the HK racing beat tend to centre around Joao Moreira but recent South American import Butterfield got into the act at Sha Tin on Sunday when staking a Derby claim in the finale.
Danny Shum's gelding was a dual G1 winner when known as Halston in his homeland and relished the step up to 1800m under Grant Van Niekerk, well placed in a steadily-run race then finding plenty when pressed to beat fellow Derby hope Columbus County and Zac Purton by half a length.
Two-time Brazilian 🇧🇷 G1 winner Butterfield stamps his claims on the @BMW Hong Kong Derby with victory in the Sha Tin finale. #4YOSeries #HKracing pic.twitter.com/OSfs9Z89G8
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 2, 2020
The runner-up did well considering he was left with plenty to do but both the first two, now rated 90 and 88, need to continue progressing to threaten leading Derby hopes Golden Sixty (112) and More Than This (107).
However, even at this stage it's clear that Butterfield's new home is very different to his old one. His earnings for winning a couple of Brazil's biggest races came in at well under £20,000. By stark contrast, his first HK success netted his owner over £115,000 with an additional £100,000 High Achievement Bonus for winning at Class 2 level before turning five.
More no more for Moore as Purton power prevails
Racecourse rumour travels every bit as fast in HK as in other countries and one of the worst kept secrets on the block was made public on Tuesday when it was confirmed that Zac Purton will replace Ryan Moore aboard leading Derby hope More Than This.
The former Richard Fahey galloper has thrived this season but winning three out of three wasn't enough to help Karis Teetan keep the mount when Moore became available and owner Huang Kai Wen has opted for another switch after More Than This came home with a rattle under Moore to chase home stablemate Golden Sixty in last month's Classic Mile.
Purton confirmed the booking after partnering fellow Derby hope Private Secretary (formerly trained by John Gosden) in a workmanlike Tuesday trial at Sha Tin and gave away no state secrets in saying "I think More Than This is the better ride at this stage so I will go with him."
More Than This will meet Golden Sixtyagain in the £1m Classic Cup on February 23rd. Purton will find him a very different beast to the More Than This he trialled this time last year. And time will tell whether Moore finds an alternative mount when the second leg of the Classic Series takes place on February 23rd.
Moreira and Badel on winning streaks
Moreira makes no secret of the fact that beating Purton in the battle for the jockeys' championship is his prime target this season and he now leads the Aussie 69-60 after outscoring his old rival 4-1 on Sunday's card.
A two-day ban took a little of the gloss of his latest four timer (this was the 52nd time he has notched four or more in a day in HK) but the big two haven't had things all their own way of late.
Inner Flame completes the hat-trick to remain unbeaten, grinding home to secure a treble for @AlexisBadel! 🔥 @equidia #HKracing pic.twitter.com/Y5uC3znQde
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 2, 2020
French import Alexis Badel completed his third treble since Boxing Day aboard the unbeaten Inner Flame on Sunday and is up to sixth in the table with 19 winners and almost £2.5m in prize money as he enters the final few weeks of his latest winter stint.
Badel's easygoing charm has certainly helped him handle the intensity of HK but his riding is clearly impressing good judges. Sunday's win aboard improving sprinter Hong Kong Win confirmed a promising link with champion trainer John Size, while Inner Flame's third win on the bounce means that Badel's record for the up-and-coming Douglas Whyte now reads eight winners from just 21 mounts.
Follow the Bear as Joao steps aboard
Wednesday's Happy Valley meeting will go ahead with severely restricted attendance measures in place again due to the outbreak of coronavirus and, at first blush, it looks the sort of card where the Moreira and Purton show might not be quite so dominant.
Moreira can expect a bold effort from freewheeling Bear Again in theRussell Handicap at 2.15 if he avoids getting into an early scrap, while lightly-raced Winner's Heart looks one of Purton’s brightest prospects in the Percival Handicap at 12.45 after showing fine speed when short headed here recently.
Dr Proactive is a viable alternative to recent impressive winner Happy Good Guys in a very winnable Canal Handicap at 11.45, while Flying Genius has drawn the widest gate for the closing Sports Road Handicap at 2.50 but has the speed and progressive profile to suggest he can get across and set some fair rivals a target under Teetan.