Helios Express Prevails – Fifth Classic For Size!

Sunday @ Sha Tin

Helios Express will be given the chance to match the colossal deeds of Golden Sixty and Rapper Dragon by chasing a Four-Year-Old Classic Series clean sweep and HK$26 million BMW Hong Kong Derby success after John Size’s emerging star’s narrow HK$13 million Hong Kong Classic Cup victory at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Helios Express (purple and yellow silks) overtakes Chancheng Glory in a desperate finish (Pic – HKJC)

Winner of the HK$13 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) last month, Helios Express gave Size a fifth Hong Kong Classic Cup win, joining Unique Jewellery (2009), It Has To Be You (2013), Thunder Fantasy (2015) and Sun Jewellery (2016).

The high-class galloper was forced to dig deep under Hugh Bowman before catching Chancheng Glory and Keagan De Melo in the last stride after finally bullocking into the clear late, eventually winning by a short head as Size’s stablemate Ensued finished third, two and three-quarters of a length further back under Ryan Moore.

Inconvenienced when the tempo came out of the race between the 800m and 400m with a 24.40s split, Helios Express needed luck in gaining a run but still clocked the fastest final sectional of 22.93s to grab Chancheng Glory in an overall time of 1m 47.73s.

“It seemed like he was pretty strong in the run in a slow-run race and he was lucky to get out, get the breaks and get the leader,” Size said. “It could have been prettier than that, but he got the job done, so that’s the main thing.

“I’m not sure how confident Bowman was that he was going to win, but it was a difficult assignment for any rider and he certainly made a good fist of it.”

Addressing the BMW Hong Kong Derby on 24 March, Size said: “The degree of difficulty just gets greater as these races continue for each of the horses. His health has been good and his work’s been good so, at the moment, we’re hoping he’s got another one in him.”

Notching a treble with success on Sun Of Makfi for David Hall and Blue Marlin for Douglas Whyte, Bowman hopes Helios Express – winner of six of eight Hong Kong starts and HK$23.07 million prize money after leaving Australia as a Benalla maiden winner – can match the deeds of Golden Sixty (2020) and Rapper Dragon (2017) by snaring all three legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.

“He settled really well but then when the pace started to change, it got really muddling around the corner, he didn’t cope with that very well. It’s hard to be too critical of him for that reason, either. With a smooth run race (in the Derby), he’ll be okay,” Bowman said.

“He needs an even tempo, he doesn’t particularly need it fast. Like all horses, he’s going to benefit from an even pace. It’s not only him – it’s the entire field.

“Look, Classic Cup probably doesn’t define the Derby picture. It wasn’t run genuinely enough, so two good horses fought the finish out and I’m very proud of my horse because he had to dig deep and most horses wouldn’t have done that.

“There were a few anxious moments at the 700m when I couldn’t hold him but I was given no option but to ride him as I rode him, given the way the race panned out.”

Dennis Yip’s Massive Sovereign charged into BMW Hong Kong Derby calculations with a dazzling win in the Class 3 Somerset Handicap for Dennis Yip and providing Zac Purton with a treble.

Formerly known as Broadhurst when trained by Aidan O’Brien, Massive Sovereign earned a PP Bonus of HK$1.5 million and impressed six-time champion jockey Purton, who also scored on Oriental Smoke and Devas Twelve, with his striking three and quarter-length win.

“I’ve liked Massive Sovereign in everything I’ve had to do with him, he’s just got a lovely attitude,” Purton said. “He really conserves his energy and looks after himself well. His trials, I thought, were good and it was unconventional to run him over 2000 metres the first time but the owner really wants to run him in the Derby.

“We had to roll the dice and if it worked, it worked – which it has. Off that effort, he’s got to be in the Derby field, doesn’t he?”

John Size will bid for a fourth BMW Hong Kong Derby (Pic – HKJC)

David Hayes produced a double, scoring with Oriental Smoke in the second section of the Class 4 Essex Handicap for Purton and Nervous Witness in the Class 2 Rutland Handicap under Andrea Atzeni.

Purton also prevailed on Chris So’s Devas Twelve in the Class 4 Norfolk Handicap, while Harry Bentley also posted a brace with Ricky Yiu’s Mr Ascendency in the Class 2 Kent Handicap and Mark Newnham’s Prawns Eleven, who finished powerfully to claim the Class 3 Kowloon Tong Club Trophy Handicap.

“Great to get a double. I’m really pleased with how things are going at the moment. The momentum is up and to be able to capitalise is really good – hopefully there’s more to come,” Bentley said.

By Super Easy, Prawns Eleven collected a PP Bonus of HK$1.5 million.

Blake Shinn made a triumphant return to Hong Kong, teaming with familiar ally Caspar Fownes in landing the first section of the Class 4 Essex Handicap aboard Sky Heart.

“Very special, actually. Caspar was wonderful to my career when I was based full-time in Hong Kong for three years,” Shinn said. “Still to have that association and for him to ask me to come over here today – he’s thrown me a great book of rides – is wonderful.

“To win in these colours is obviously very sentimental, obviously going back to the 2021 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint winner Sky Field. It’s really fitting that I could come here today and get a result for Caspar and his owners.”

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday.

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