Big Guns drawn wide for HK Derby

Helios Express’ bid to match the towering feats of Rapper Dragon and Golden Sixty with a clean sweep of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series with HK$26 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) victory at Sha Tin on Sunday (24 March) has been complicated by a challenging barrier draw.

The winner of the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), Helios Express will attempt to become only the third horse after Rapper Dragon (2017) and Golden Sixty (2020) to win all three legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, but he has drawn barrier 13 in the BMW Hong Kong Derby, while Galaxy Patch – another of the top contenders – will start from the extreme outside in barrier 14.

Bidding for a fourth BMW Hong Kong Derby, 12-time champion John Size was typically philosophical after Helios Express was cast into the second-widest alley under Hugh Bowman, while stablemate Ensued will jump from gate 12 for Ryan Moore.

“I'll have to have a look at the race, see what the jocks think and try and work it out. They haven't done me any favours yet,” Size said before providing an update on Helios Express, who has overcome a bacterial infection in a hoof.

“The horse (Helios Express) is fine, he galloped this morning and he looks good.”

Previously successful in the Derby with Fay Fay (2012), Luger (2015) and Ping Hai Galaxy (2018), Size will hope Helios Express and Ensued can emulate last season’s winner Voyage Bubble’s effort to land the Classic from a wide gate (barrier 14).

Harry Bentley, who partners Frankie Lor’s Unbelievable from barrier eight, summed up the post-draw mood by pointing to the contrasting fortunes of several horses.

“Now the draws are out, it puts a different spin on things and it’s going to bring a few things into play – people from those wide draws will want to secure nice positions but then not want to light their horses up too much. It puts a different spin on it and makes it very interesting,” Bentley said, referencing the short run from the 2000m start to the turn out of the straight.

“You want to get sorted as quick as you can going into the first bend and get your position and then hope the gallop is not too slow, especially for my horse who is a real out and out stayer,” Bentley said.

“It (Unbelievable’s barrier draw) is so-so. It’s a bit of a No-Man’s Land draw but hopefully there should be a bit of pace on from wide now the draw has come out with some interesting horses drawn quite wide so the draw is okay.”

Chasing his first Derby triumph, Dennis Yip was satisfied with Massive Sovereign’s draw of gate 10 for Zac Purton.

“The draw is OK. For my horse, it is no problem. I am very comfortable. I'll let Zac work it out,” Yip said.

Star Mac will jump from barrier one, Elliptical starts from two with Chill Chibi (three), Ka Ying Generation (four) and Beauty Crescent (five) all drawing favourably. Simple Hedge has gate six, while Speed Dragon is in the middle of the field alongside Unbelievable, with Chancheng Glory (nine) next to Massive Sovereign.

Helene Feeling drew gate 11, while Ensued, Helios Express and Galaxy Patch occupy the three widest barriers.

Sunday’s (24 March) 10-race Sha Tin card starts with the Class 4 Furore Handicap (1200m) at 12.45pm with the BMW Hong Kong Derby scheduled to start at 4.15pm.

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