Trainer Tony Millard holds high hopes that Singapore Sling can stamp himself as Hong Kong’s leading four-year-old when the South African import tackles Sunday’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) at Sha Tin.
Singapore Sling will be aiming to become the fourth horse since 2011 to win the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and Hong Kong Derby, following in the footsteps of three previous Horse of the Year winners: the Millard-trained Ambitious Dragon (2011) and handler John Moore’s pair Designs On Rome (2014) and Rapper Dragon (2017).
“He’s in nice form, we just need a bit of luck now,” Millard said at Sha Tin on Thursday morning (15 March). “We are certainly happy with him, he’s come through his preparation well and he’s done a lot of things right very quickly ever since he debuted in November.”
Jockey Chad Schofield will once again ride Singapore Sling, as he did in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, where the Philanthropist four-year-old finished second to Nothingilikemore, and the Hong Kong Classic Cup.
Schofield was gifted barrier three at Thursday’s draw function, a good gate from the 2000m start at Sha Tin which features a short run to the first turn. It has been the most successful barrier in the Derby since the blue riband was switched to 2000m at the turn of the century.
“The draw is very important, he won’t have to do any work,” Millard said. “I think he will be in a similar spot to where he was in the Classic Cup from there and he should get his chance.”
Singapore Sling took to the turf last Friday (9 March) for his main lead-up gallop, a 1200m hitout alongside G3-winning stablemate Horse Of Fortune. The pair covered the distance in 1m 14.0s (25.7, 25.3, 23.0), with Singapore Sling coming home the better of the two. The bay has since had an easy 800m blow-out on dirt.
“I’m happy with his work, so we’ve just got to cruise through now,” Millard said. “We’ll just keep him ticking over the next couple of days until the race.”
Millard has prepared two previous Derby winners; Keen Winner gave him Derby victory in his first season as a Hong Kong trainer in 2000 before Ambitious Dragon’s 2011 success.
“I try not to think about the past but I try to look towards the future,” Millard said. “It’s always nice to have a horse of this calibre and hopefully he continues to thrive the next couple of days.”
Among the 14-strong Derby field are seven horses that finished behind Singapore Sling in the Hong Kong Classic Cup, including placegetters Exultant and The Golden Age, Hong Kong Classic Mile winner Nothingilikemore and Gr1 victors Rivet and Ruthven. The John Size-trained Ping Hai Star is the highest-rated horse coming from a formline outside the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
The BMW Hong Kong Derby is the eighth of 10 races at Sha Tin on Sunday and is scheduled to jump at 10h35pm.(SA Time)
- Andrew Hawkins – Hong Kong Jockey Club