History – is it for or against Derby hero in FWD Champions Mile

Steve Moran

29/04/2023 10:00

Voyage Bubble wins the 2023 BMW Hong Kong Derby.
Voyage Bubble wins the 2023 BMW Hong Kong Derby.

BMW Hong Kong Derby-winning hero Voyage Bubble steps upon a relatively unfamiliar path when he tackles the G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday and a first glance at the history of the two races does not appear to bode well for his chances.

No horse has completed the BMW Hong Kong Derby and Champions Mile double.

However, the greatest stumbling block to a Voyage Bubble victory will not come in the shape of history but rather from his two principal rivals – the 2020 Derby winner Golden Sixty and last year’s Derby runner-up California Spangle.

Since Luger’s misfortune in 2015, only three Derby winners have dropped back in trip at their next start and each won. Sky Darci won the Lion Rocky Trophy (1600m) and Golden Sixty claimed the Celebration Cup (1400m) immediately after winning the Derby while Rapper Dragon won the Chairmans Trophy (1600m) before contesting the Champions Mile.

It is also not without precedent for a Derby contestant to win the Champions Mile. Xtension did so in 2011 after running second in the Derby to Ambitious Dragon who subsequently won the QEII Cup.

Xtension wins the Champions Mile in 2011.

Able One won the first international Group 1 edition of the Champions Mile in 2007 after finishing fourth in the Derby and fifth in the Premier Plate.

It’s hard to believe now that Able One, who would win the race again in 2010, started at 33/1 with Michael Kinane aboard and with the 2008 winner and three times Hong Kong Mile winner Good Ba Ba unplaced as the 2.3 favourite.

So, there are some positive precedents for Voyage Bubble and the Derby form held up in the final race last Sunday when Straight Arron beat two other unplaced Derby runners – albeit in a Class 2.

The history of the race looks to count more strongly against the hopes of Annabel Neasham-trained My Oberon whose form credentials look solid enough following a last start second the G1 Doncaster Mile at Randwick.

My Oberon exercises at Sha Tin ahead of the FWD Champions Day.
My Oberon exercises at Sha Tin ahead of the FWD Champions Day.

Only one of eight Australian trained runners has threatened the Champions Mile judges’ box since the race was opened to international runners in 2005 and four of them failed to beat a runner home.

The exception was John Hawkes-trained Dao Dao who was beaten narrowly into third place in 2009.

Neasham may well take heart from the fact that My Oberon, like Dao Dao in 2009, comes to Hong Kong off a light campaign of just three runs; not to mention that her first Hong Kong runner Laws Of Indices ran with credit when third to California Spangle and Golden Sixty in last December’s G1 Hong Kong Mile.

My Oberon was, incidentally, originally trained by Britain’s William Haggas who saddles up Dubai Honour – the recent winner of the G1 Ranvet Stakes and G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney – in the FWD QEII Cup.

Criterion, third in 2015 under the training of David Hayes, is the most recent ATC Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner to contest the FWD QEII Cup.

Presvis, Luca Cumani in 2009, is the only British trained winner of the race.

Steve Moran

Steve Moran is an award winning Melbourne racing journalist who has covered the 'sport of kings' on television, radio and in print for more than 30 years.

His passion is international racing and especially the major days in Hong Kong which he has attended since 1999. He names Silent Witness, Good Ba Ba and the dual Cox Plate winner Northerly among his favourite horses and considers the Hong Kong wins of Sunline, Lord Kanaloa, Maurice, A Shin Hikari and Chautauqua among the most spectacular he's seen.

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