PRIVATE GOES PUBLIC WITH DERBY CLAIMS ON THE LINE
It's hard to think of many British imports who achieved as much on their Hong Kong debut as Private Secretary did at Happy Valley last month.
The Kingman colt earned a BHA mark of 106 with John Gosden and put himself firmly in the reckoning for Hong Kong's Four-Year-Old Classic series with a clinical success against useful Class 2 rivals under Vincent Ho from a Hong Kong mark of 87.
Private Secretary screams BMW Hong Kong Derby with an accomplished Hong Kong debut win. #HKracing #HappyWednesday pic.twitter.com/y9wSUsD6T9
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 26, 2019
The fact that Ho is committed to Golden Sixty for the Classic Mile - allied to a suspension for Zac Purton - means recent French recruit Tony Piccone comes in for the ride on Private Secretary in Saturday's Lung Kong Handicap at 9.00.
And the presence of several of those who chased him home at the Valley - namely Band Of Brothers, Butterfield and Good Omen - ought to provide a clear line as to whether Tony Cruz is right to rate him as his number one Derby hope.
Longtime Hong Kong followers may recall Military Attack - known as Rave for the late John Hills – winning on his Valley debut from a mark of 89 in 2012. He didn't fire in the Derby but enjoyed a long and rewarding Hong Kong career which yielded ten wins and well over £6m in prize money.
EXPRESS ON TRACK WITH SILVESTRE BACK
So, what of Private Secretary's chances of defying a 7lb rise against the trio he beat on Boxing Night and several other bang-in-form rivals?
The draw has been kind with stall 6 and another decisive win will put Private Secretary right upsides last week's impressive debut scorer Beauty Legacy atop the Derby rankings.
However, this is a strong handicap featuring a handful of potent dangers and Preciousship and Nicconi Express are two very viable alternatives if the favourite hasn't made the anticipated progress since his debut.
Preciousship showed useful form when known as Riyazan for Michael Halford and has thrived for the resurgent Ricky Yiu, finishing powerfully for two Class 3 and wins when pipped by leading Derby hope More Than This at Class 2 level last month.
He's all set to go very well again from the inside draw in what should be a well-run race, while Nicconi Express is perhaps the most interesting runner of all.
John Size's progressive gelding was only just behind Preciousship in fourth five weeks ago - making his move a little earlier than ideal in a finish dominated by holdup horses - and can do even better with Silvestre de Sousa aboard for the first time this season.
DE SOUSA DEFENDS PERFECT RECORD ON CONSISTENT SUPER STAR
Another former Halford-trained winner steps out in the Tak Ku Ling Handicap at 8.25 and he does so with a new name that is interesting even by Hong Kong standards.
Karasi progressed well to win two from five for Halford but now rejoices in the name of Horseain Bolt as he makes his debut for Douglas Whyte. A recent Happy Valley trial win and Whyte's fine form augur well enough, while Awe signed off his William Haggas career with a fine fourth in Royal Ascot's Britannia Stakes and has trialled strongly ahead of his first run for John Moore.
Awe looks the pick of the Euro pair but he'll need to be sharp to oblige first time out from a mark of 75 and de Sousa stands in his way on the likeable top weight Super Star.
Tony Millard's gelding has been ridden by Joao Moreira to a win and two good thirds this season. It's interesting to note that the Brazilian climbs aboard lightly-raced Be Ready this time but de Sousa is unbeaten in two attempts on Super Star and the suspicion remains that he's fairly treated from a rating of 79.
HK STARS LIMBER UP FOR G1 TARGETS
Elite horses tend to have their final trial just over a week before big targets in Hong Kong and some of the biggest stars in town were on view early at Sha Tin on Friday morning as they limbered up for two Group 1 contests to be run next Sunday.
Beauty Generation was mulish before heading out for his workout along with Hong Kong Sprint winner Beat The Clock and the jury remains out as to whether he can bounce back against old rival Waikuku in the Stewards' Cup after a trial which pleased Zac Purton but was inconclusive as to whether he's ready to turn back the clock.
Beauty Generation & Beat The Clock warm up for their respective G1 tests in nine days' time. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/DsRrfhiUiG
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 10, 2020
Waikuku went 3-1 up in his head-to-head series against Beauty Generation when the pair finished second and third behind Japanese raider Admire Mars in the Hong Kong Mile last month.
John Size's gelding looked in good shape when winning another Friday trial over 1200m, while Mr Stunning limbered up for next week's Centenary Sprint Cup by coming home ahead of smart rivals in a later heat over 1050m.