Navas Two to press Hong Kong Classic Cup claims for Maia
Ruan Maia is confident Navas Two can continue a startling rise and make a strong case ahead of the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) later this month with another convincing performance in the Class 2 Rose Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Saturday (12 February).
Chasing a fourth successive victory, Navas Two has risen from a mark of 63 to 82 with a hat-trick of Class 3 1400m wins, fuelling Richard Gibson and Maia’s confidence ahead of the Hong Kong Classic Cup – the second leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series – at Sha Tin on 27 February.
Gibson chose to bypass the Hong Kong Classic Mile claimed by the unbeaten Hong Kong International Sale Graduate Romantic Warrior on 30 January to instead use tomorrow’s race as a launching pad into the midpoint of the lucrative series.
“The plan is to run him in the mile before he goes to the Hong Kong Classic Cup race because if you sometimes go straight from 1400m to 1800m, it is not so good. So, the plan is to run him in the mile so we can see after this race,” Maia said.
“This time, he’s up in class but I believe he’s still in great form. The barrier (gate 12) is not too good but I think the mile can help him to get to a good position. He’s just more relaxed now and he’s improved a lot.
“A few times I did a gallop on him and he felt very comfortable, he was feeling good and stronger. I like him a lot. I will try to jump positive and try to cross to two-wide with cover, midfield in fifth, sixth position and wait for the straight because he has a very strong finish.”
Navas Two has been a revelation this season for Gibson, having joined the Englishman’s stable from Australia as two-time winner Tadashi Hamada. The son of Excelebration also holds an entry for the HK$24 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 20 March.
Success for Navas Two on Saturday would deliver a High Achievement Bonus of HK$1 million for winning a Class 2 race when rated 80 or higher before turning five years of age.
Daniel Moor rode a winner at the Happy Valley meeting on Sunday (6 February) and the Australian is hopeful another BMW Hong Kong Derby entrant Gold Marquis can succeed in the Class 3 Peach Blossom Handicap (1400m) for Caspar Fownes.
“Obviously, last start he was a bit of an eye-catcher (when fourth behind Rewarding Together), he made steady ground and seems to be an improving type, so I’m pleased to be on another chance,” Moor said.
“He’s a nice, progressive type. He’s very balanced and goes about his business really well. We’ve got a sticky draw (barrier 11) and we’ve got to overcame that.”
Triumphant on Bingo Bingo last Sunday, Moor has quickly settled into his new surroundings.
“I’m really enjoying my time here and seemed to have slipped into the system really well, so no complaints and excited to get on with things and get into a rhythm,” Moor said.
“Caspar, along with most of the other trainers, has been really accommodating and giving me a chance to show them that I can do well, so I’m very much appreciative of the support.
Things are looking good and as long as we can keep on riding consistently and getting a score on the board, it will be good.”
With nine victories from his last 18 rides, Zac Purton will bid to continue his supreme recent form when partnering last-start winner Golden Empire in the second section of the Class 4 Daisy Handicap (1200m) for Francis Lui.
“He still doesn’t really know what he’s doing,” Purton said. “He just doesn’t have any (early) speed, he just wants to drop right out, he won’t travel. But, to his credit, when it mattered (last start), I swept him to the outside and he closed the race off nicely and switched off the last little bit.
“I think as time goes on, he should become a little more push-button and he’ll probably get further as well. He’s turned up race-day so far and I can’t think why he won’t again.”
Eleven of Purton’s 65 winners for the season have come from just 21 rides for Lui, underscoring the Australian’s appreciation of the trainer’s expertise.
“He’s (Lui) been flying for a number of years now, doing a lot of things right. His horses continually race well and they continually back up and race well. When I’ve thought that his horses have got to their ceiling, he gets another one or two wins out of them. He’s going really well,” Purton said.
Purton on Friday morning accompanied G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) victor Waikuku in a 1200m trial on the dirt, finishing last of eight runners in preparation for the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, 20 February.
Purton was unfazed by the 12-and-a-half length margin separating the decorated veteran and Danny Shum’s Winner Method.
“I think after the cold weather recently, we got a nice sunny morning and he (Waikuku) thought he was just here for a day out,” Purton said.
“He ambled to the gates. I had to get the pony to drag him to the gate and then he just cruised around in his trial and did what he does. But he’s moving well, pulled up in good order and I’m looking forward to riding him again next week.
“He’s coming off the back of a good win against good opposition. We’ll go to the races full of confidence and hopefully he can draw a nice gate and give him a nice run and hopefully he can get the job done again.”
Saturday’s (12 February) 10-race fixture at Sha Tin starts with the Class 5 Azalea Handicap (1400m) at 1pm.