Treasure hunting for glory in Sunday’s Hong Kong Classic Mile

Giant Treasure will on Sunday (18 January) attempt to hand the big-race combination of trainer Richard Gibson, jockey Douglas Whyte and owner Pan Sutong a second HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile.

The three men teamed up for success in the first leg of the Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Series in 2013 when Gold-Fun obliged, and the trio also combined to annex the third leg that term thanks to Akeed Mofeed in the HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby, with Gold-Fun third. After being forced to sit and watch Able Friend and Designs On Rome dominate the 2014 series, Gibson is hoping that Giant Treasure has what it takes to emerge from Sunday’s race ahead of his peers.

The striking grey impressed track work watchers as soon as he stepped out at Sha Tin, and tantalised them further with a couple of exciting barrier trials at the backend of 2014. The British import’s easy debut victory in a Class 3 1400m contest in December confirmed the view that he could be among the smarter four-year-olds on the Hong Kong circuit this season. Sent off a short-priced favourite for his second start, Giant Treasure tasted defeat but ran on well off a slow pace to claim third in a hot Class 2 over 1600m – that was on 4 January.

“I was pleased with the way he ran last time and he clocked a very good sectional time, so I thought it was a good prep for this race,” said Gibson, referencing the 21.96s the Mizzen Mast gelding clocked for the final 400m.

“He’s been very professional since he arrived, we’ve put two races into him pretty quickly and this race comes up quickly, but that’s the way it is in Hong Kong. He’s in really good shape – we know he’s got a lot of ability.”

Gibson’s charge faces 10 rivals in Sunday’s HK$8 million contest, which is the traditional first major stop-off for horses on the HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby trail. Among his opponents are several imports with high-class form in Europe and Australia, and Gibson is wary of the latter group in particular.

“Perhaps the biggest test will be against the southern hemisphere horses who seem to be probably a little bit more advantaged than the northern hemisphere horses at this stage of the year,” he opined. “They’ve got more miles in their legs and they’re stronger, more mature, so it’s a tough ask for the northern hemisphere horses, but this guy’s got a lot of quality. We’ll see what he can do against them.”

Giant Treasure will break from gate five in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, a good berth on paper, albeit one that has yielded only a single winner in the past 23 renewals, Sunny Sing in 2006.

“I’m always a strong believer in Group 1 races that Group 1 horses should be able to adapt to whatever conditions they face. We haven’t got an extreme barrier, so Douglas should be able to do his job properly,” said Gibson.

Divine Calling, another exciting grey, heads into the race with identical Hong Kong form figures as Giant Treasure. After posting one of the season’s most impressive wins, at least visually, Tony Millard’s Australian import ran third last time out in a 1600m Class 1 on 30 November and heads into Sunday a fresh horse.

The John Moore stable will rely on Arpinati, Savvy Nature and Helene Happy Star, while Tony Cruz, aiming for a fourth win in the race as a trainer, has the talented Beauty Only and Anticipation.

Caspar Fownes will saddle the talented Gun Pit, the mount of Olivier Doleuze, while last season’s G1 Prix du Jockey Club fifth Gonna Run will make his Hong Kong debut under Maxime Guyon.

The John Size-trained Thunder Fantasy and the Me Tsui-trained Flying Moochi complete the line-up.

The three-race Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Series also consists of the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on Sunday, 15 February and the HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on Sunday, 15 March.

Gibson has those two races on the agenda for Got Fly, who will line-up in the last race on Sunday, a Class 2 over 1800m in which he must contend with a field of hardy older rivals.

The French import made a promising Hong Kong debut when a close fifth over 1400m on 23 November and built on that with a relatively easy win under top-weight of 133lb in an 1800m Class 3 on 14 December. The bay won three of five starts in Europe, closing out with a Listed win over 2000m last May.

“Got Fly is another northern hemisphere horse – he’s done well, because he was gelded when he came into Hong Kong but he’s raced very well twice,” said Gibson.

“We think he’s more of a stamina horse, more of an 1800m or 2000m horse, so we didn’t put him in the Classic Mile. We’re in this race on Sunday against some really tough older horses – he’s a year and more – younger than them, we hope he runs well with a view to running him in the trial (Classic Cup) a month later.



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