Jenny - Clean

SHA Tin on Sunday sees the running of the Hong Kong Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Mile, unofficially the first leg of the four-year-old series.

Last year it was won by Beauty Flash who went on to further glory by taking the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile in December. This year those looking to follow in his hoof prints include rising stars Lucky Nine and Little Bridge.

Although the two Ls top the Classic Mile ratings on 122 and 114 respectively, they are unlikely to have things all their own way on Sunday as they are confronted by a group of strong improvers.

These include Xtension, fourth in the G1 English 2000 Guineas before his arrival in Hong Kong, and New Zealand Derby winner, Military Move.

With other classy contenders like Sichuan Success, Multiglory and Free Judgement, who is still unraced in Hong Kong but ran second in the G1 Irish 2000 Guineas, in a 12-runner field which contains no forlorn hopes, the race looks sure to live up to its title.

Certain to be one of the most strongly fancied is the Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine who looked a little unlucky when missing the break from a wide draw in the G1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint, a race in which he was beaten little more than the ground he initially lost.

He now steps up to the Mile that Fownes has always felt would suit him. Jockey Brett Prebble, who is two for two on the gelding, is just as full of enthusiasm for him as his trainer.

“He’s a lovely horse,” says Prebble, “a real racehorse. I trialled him the other day and he’s freshened up very well. He was unlucky in the CXHK Sprint, missing the break and then getting sandwiched a bit. But moving to the mile will suit him. There’s no chance he won’t run a mile. He’s a very tough horse, and a very good one.”

But the Danny Shum-trained Little Bridge, who has charged up the ratings with six victories from eight outings since his debut on 23 May last year, is another high class sprinter now moving up in trip.

He was third to dead heaters Rocket Man and One World in the G2 Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint, in which he had Lucky Nine behind him. Then, after failing to get involved in the CXHK Sprint itself following a check at the start, he won the 1400m HKG3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup on the New Year’s Day.

Some may doubt Little Bridge’s ability to get the 1600m trip in view of the speed he’s shown at 1000m, but not his jockey Zac Purton.

“I think he’ll run a mile,” says Purton without hesitation. “I think he was winning those 1000m races on sheer ability, and a mile should suit him better. He keeps hitting that flat spot in his races and then running on, which makes me think he’s got plenty of stamina. He’s really easy to settle and you can put him anywhere you like in a race. I’ll just sum up the tempo and decide where I want to be.”

Trainer John Moore however has equally high hopes of his pair Xtension and New Zealand Derby winner Military Move, who will have no stamina worries at all with a G1 at 2400m already to his name, and who should not be worried either by the 1600m judging by the speed he’s shown in placed outings at 1400m in Hong Kong.

“Both have a very good chance on Sunday, but both will be peaking on Derby Day,” says Moore. “Darren’s chosen Xtension who’s settled very well since his arrival from the UK where he had absolutely top class miling form. So Neil [Callan], who’s going back to England shortly, will be on Military Move.

"It’s a very good ride for him, and it would be great to send him off with a Group One. For both horses the Derby is the real mission, but they’re very exciting horses not just for the Derby but for the long term future. With some of our established stars beginning to feel their age now, these are the kind who are going to take over.”

Sichuan Success showed impressive talent in his recent course and distance victory for John Size, while the Tony Cruz-trained Multiglory looks the likely front runner.

Multiglory’s speed is not in doubt and he may get the easy lead which will enable him to get the mile. “I think he’ll get the trip,” says his jockey Matthew Chadwick, “and I think he’ll get the easy lead too. He had mucuous in his trachea last time but he’s fine now.”

With even such as Outdoor Pegasus and Dragon Fighter demanding their inclusion at this level with impressive performances in the last few weeks, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Mile looks a contest certain to live up to the quality its name suggests.



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