Racing

Rapper Dragon too classy in HK Classic Mile

Hong Kong (Sha Tin) race round-up

RAPPER DRAGON emphasised his standing as the best four-year-old in Hong Kong with a dominant victory in the Hong Kong Classic Mile at Sha Tin on Sunday.

"He seems like something special," was jockey Joao Moreira's verdict after the John Moore-trained Street Boss gelding had put daylight on his peers.

"I was always comfortable, all the way through the race," the champion jockey continued.

"When John asked me to ride him forward and race in the top five I was a bit surprised, but the way he jumps out he was always going to put himself where he was."

And after bagging the first leg of Hong Kong's three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series, Rapper Dragon will head to next month's Hong Kong Classic Cup over 1,800m before attempting to stretch his stamina to the BMW Hong Kong Derby over 2,000m in mid-March.

"The way he won today, you wouldn't doubt that he would step up to 1,800m and perform at his top level, and I also believe he will make it over 2,000m," said Moreira.

SMOOTH PASSAGE

Rapper Dragon, 14 points clear of the field on official ratings and returned the 2.1 favourite, enjoyed a smooth passage in Sunday's 1,600m showpiece. Moreira settled the powerful son of Street Boss fifth-sixth, one berth off the rail, as Circuit Hassler set the tempo.

When Moreira asked his mount to quicken into contention with 350m remaining, the response was impressive. The Australian import extended his stride and raked to the lead inside the 300m point.

Stablemate Beauty Generation attempted to match that surge but flattened out inside the final 200m as Seasons Bloom rattled late to snare second under jockey Nash Rawiller.

The winning time was 1min 34.98sec with Rapper Dragon's final 400m clocked at a race-fastest 22.03sec.

"This is a great horse for the stable and a great win for Hong Kong," said Moore said.

"The way he ran today, you'd have to say he's 100 per cent fit, so the idea now is to keep him at this level for the next two races, culminating in the Hong Kong Derby.

"I'd been telling the press all week that this is the cleanest-winded horse I've had in the stable for donkey's years and, from that point of view, he's very easy to get fit.

"His trial was very good and his work coming into the race today was very good. I was tipping him on top and he's come out and won by two lengths, which did surprise me a little bit because I didn't think he'd win that easily."

GEAR CHANGE

Rapper Dragon's win was a fourth in the race for Moore, who won in 2014 with Able Friend, in 2006 with Sunny Sing and in 2004 with Tiber.

Moore reported that jockey Zac Purton has suggested a gear change for Beauty Generation after the Road To Rock gelding was mugged late for second.

"He was fractionally disappointing," said the handler.

"He came out to do it and Zac was of the opinion that maybe taking the blinkers off might be a possibility, simply because through the race he gets on the chewy-chewy a little bit - maybe taking the blinkers off, he'll settle a little bit more and have the kick at the end.

"That was the opinion of Zac. We'll look at it closely and then decide whether to take the blinkers off for the Classic Cup."

Rawiller was delighted with the run of Seasons Bloom after nicking second by a head. Trainer Danny Shum's lightly-raced charge stormed home in 22.05sec.

"He's a lovely horse, it was a great run," said Rawiller.

"The way he's finished there, it was a great Derby trial, that's what it was." - HKJC