More Than This on giant-slaying mission in Sunday’s Stewards’ Cup

Declan Schuster

19/01/2022 11:58

More Than This (outside) finishes second to Golden Sixty in the 2021 G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m).
More Than This (outside) finishes second to Golden Sixty in the 2021 G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m).

Graduates of the 2020 Four-Year-Old Classic Series, Golden Sixty and More Than This have had vastly contrasting careers since – like most in comparison to Hong Kong’s reigning Horse of the Year.

Pitted then as Hong Kong’s Generation Next, Golden Sixty has soared to inexorable heights – where he currently remains – while More Than This – with a few setbacks along the way – is without a win since December, 2019.

But on his day, More Than This boasts a powerful finish and his two best efforts since his sparkling 2019/20 campaign have come at G1 level – twice behind Golden Sixty, including his heart-in-mouth second to Hong Kong’s champion in the 2021 G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) when he clocked the fastest final 400m of the race – 22.24s.

While this term – at his second outing – he again chased his imperious classmate into second – this time by slightly over a length in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) against an internationally acclaimed cast from Japan, Ireland and Hong Kong last month.

Gearing up for his third start this season, More Than This is once again tasked with the all too familiar mission of attempting to overthrow the kingpin of Hong Kong racing – this time in Sunday’s (23 January) HK$12 million G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin and jockey Derek Leung – while wary of the task at hand – is taking solace in additional “improvement” from the Dutch Art gelding between runs.

“I’m sure with a smooth run he will get some prize money, we have the Horse of the Year (Golden Sixty) in the race but my horse is fitter now, he’s only had two runs this season, so his fitness is getting better and in the mornings he’s slightly improved,” Leung said.

More Than This pushes Golden Sixty in the 2021 G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m).

More Than This – a four-time winner in Hong Kong – has collected a mouth-watering HK$23.52 million in earnings across his 20-start career in town and he’s laid down significant markers of late to suggest that he is Group 1 winner in waiting – especially if Golden Sixty was to bypass future contests in Hong Kong this season for an overseas option.

“He’s always quite laid back throughout the race, he jumps sharply but he’s always laid back – at the 700 (metre mark) last start he was on the bridle and then we just followed Golden Sixty’s line throughout – he ran perfect last time and hopefully this time he will be fresh and run better,” Leung said.

This weekend’s test features a compact field of seven going to post including Healthy Happy, Kings Shield, Waikuku, Sky Darci and Russian Emperor.

“If the pace and everything in the race favours us then of course we can beat him, but you could see last time he was close to Golden Sixty and they took off early which helped More Than This and that’s how he got closer, it depends on how the race’s run and also the pace – we’re always against the same horses,” Leung said.

Overall, More Than This boasts five placings behind Golden Sixty – twice third and three times in second spot.

Chasing a first Group 1 crown since his success in the 2017 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile aboard Beauty Generation, Leung boasts 17 wins this term and is aiming to better the career-high 39 he collected throughout 2020/21.

“I think Danny (Shum) has done a very good job – the horse is fit, well and fresh,” Leung said.

Shinn hopes to charm Happy Valley

Blake Shinn has 13 wins this season and HK$34.30 million banked for connections.
Blake Shinn has 13 wins this season and HK$34.30 million banked for connections.

Blake Shinn hopes the timing is right with Charming Steed when the Caspar Fownes-trainee lines up in tonight’s (Wednesday, 19 January) Class 4 Green Island Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley.

“He’s done everything right in all three runs – he’s knocking door for a win, so let’s hope he can get it on Wednesday night,” Shinn said.

Twice runner-up from three runs in Hong Kong, Charming Steed has adapted to life in the Far East swiftly and Shinn gets the leg-up on the Charm Spirit gelding for the second time this evening. The pair step away from gate five together.

“He was beaten by a horse who had an advantage in that class of race but I thought my horse ran really well, he’s got tactical speed, he puts himself in a good position and he quickened up a little it, he got held up a touch around the bend but it wouldn’t have changed the result – we might have finished a length closer but he gets another really good opportunity to win,” Shinn explained.

The four-year-old Hong Kong International Sale graduate clocked 1m 26.5s (33.1, 27.8, 25.6) in a recent hit-out on the dirt at Sha Tin.

“It looks like a winnable race – I think the horse with the right run will win the race and I think my horse should present well to put himself in the right position,” the Melbourne Cup-winning rider said.

Charming Steed rolls into second behind Rewarding Together.

Hindered by a number of suspensions of late, Shinn is eager to return to the fray tonight with seven rides including Solar Wai Wai, Hall Of Champ and Loving A Boom.

“It’s been a bit of a frustrating time with myself riding and getting suspended but I have had to use the time wisely and get myself prepared to come back bigger and better.

“I feel in a great spot mentally and physically, especially with some big rides coming up – I can’t wait to get back in the saddle,” Shinn said.

Shinn is gearing up to partner Sky Field in Sunday’s (23 January) G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m), Russian Emperor in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and Fantastic Treasure in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) – the opening leg of the three-race age-restricted Four-Year-Old Classic Series.

“We have Sky Field – he’s going great, Fantastic Treasure is heading to the Classic Mile and Russian Emperor – so there’s plenty of ammunition there and plenty to keep me enthusiastic about coming back,” Shinn said.

Tonight’s (19 January) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.45pm with the Class 5 Po Toi Handicap (1800m).

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