Waikuku's Derby stock rises
John Size-trained Irish import fires warning shot with his fourth win in a row
Waikuku fired a booming warning shot to his fellow BMW Hong Kong Derby aspirants with an impressive victory in the Class 2 Lion City Handicap over 1,800m at Sha Tin on Saturday.
"He has gone to another level. I can't wait to ride him in the Derby," said jockey Joao Moreira.
Trainer John Size's charge has made big strides since going down by a nose on debut a couple of days before Christmas. Saturday's success was his fourth in a row and it was achieved in the style of a horse destined to be a major player in the final leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series in two weeks' time.
"He has quite surprised me and John Size, and people watching, with the rapid progress he has made," said Moreira, after the Irish import had scored by 11/2 lengths in 1min 46.74sec.
"He was very nice and relaxed on the back of the field and the race suited him because they went a bit fast up front. He had to go around them all and he just left them all flat-footed the last 200 metres."
Moreira eased Waikuku back from gate 12, settling second last as Easy Go Easy Win set the tempo. The Irish import shifted wide for progress on the turn, but had the race in the bag long before he passed the leader approaching the 200m pole.
"That's what you're hoping for," said Size.
"In the 1,400m races, he's been running time and the other day he ran a slow section mid-race, 24 (seconds) or something, so let's go up in distance and see if he's got the stamina to finish it off.
"He was always going (to the Derby) but that had to be part of his preparation otherwise he hadn't had any practice at the tempo."
Size also saddled Enrichment - third behind runner-up Mongolian King - and the trainer stated that the Australian import will go on to the Derby where Ryan Moore will take the ride.
"Enrichment, he's run another dour race. He's obviously going to appreciate the 2,000m and he can race handily so that will help him a lot. I think they've both got chances of getting prize money."
Jockey Neil Callan was in the plate this time though, and the Irishman said: "The pace was nice and even, I had Enrichment out early enough in the straight and he just kept batting away.
" He just feels a little bit mentally immature - he's a really nice staying type going forward for next season. The Derby? It looks like the winner's going to be a tough one to beat but this horse has a future."
With a two-meeting suspension followed by a Happy Valley blank mid-week, the prolific Moreira had not been up the winner's arch since Feb 17.
Perfect Pair rectified that situation to kick off a double for the rider. The So-trained gelding took the Class 4 Bukit Timah Handicap over 1,400m by a neck. - HKJC