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Helios Express sweeps to Hong Kong Classic Mile victory for Size, Bowman

February 5, 2024 at 4:35:06 AM

Delivering on lofty pre-race expectations with convincing victory in the HK$13 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (4 February), Helios Express will next attempt to emulate Golden Sixty with success in the HK$13 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on 3 March.

Delivering on lofty pre-race expectations with convincing victory in the HK$13 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (4 February), Helios Express will next attempt to emulate Golden Sixty with success in the HK$13 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on 3 March.

Golden Sixty (2020) and Rapper Dragon (2017) stand alone as the only horses to sweep the series with victory in all three legs, culminating in BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) success, and Size hopes Helios Express can continue a blazing ascent after showcasing unmistakable talent with his fifth win from seven Hong Kong starts.

By Toronado, Helios Express provided Size with his fourth Hong Kong Classic Mile win after Sun Jewellery (2016) – who also snared the Hong Kong Classic Cup – Nothingilikemore (2018) and Excellent Proposal (2021), while Hugh Bowman slotted his first Hong Kong Classic Mile victory since Furore in 2019.

Given a patient ride by Bowman behind a moderate pace set by Chancheng Glory, Helios Express forged into clear running over the final 400m to down Helene Feeling by one and three-quarter lengths, while Star Mac charged from the rear of the field to be third, a further neck back. Speed Dragon, who struggled for clear running late, finished fourth.

Acknowledging the soft tempo and an overall time of 1m 34.44s, Size has no doubts over Helios Express’ class after the gelding stamped telling authority.

“It was a slow run race and he was able to adapt to a very slow tempo, which is a good thing in a racehorse. He was able to overcome that and still win the race,” Size said. “Of this generation of horses, he seems to be the quality horse amongst the ones he’s competing against, and it was a very convincing win.”

Size confirmed plans to head to the Hong Kong Classic Cup and is confident in Helios Express’ adaptability.

“There’s always some concern (about the step up in distance) because the circumstances of the races can change dramatically from one race to the next. The good horses overcome a different style of running and they win. He has to do that – he has that in front of him.

“It’s always very exciting, and a bit of a relief actually to have another good horse come along. You look forward to it and hope it happens. You can’t design the stable to achieve that, but it’s always gratifying to see another good horse come along in this age group, and hopefully he has a good career.”

Bowman said: “The critical side of me says I would have liked for him (Helios Express) to settle a bit better in the run but it was a very sedate tempo which encouraged him to travel the way he did – but that’s the sign of an exceptional horse – and when I gave him room and asked him for an effort, that’s exactly what we all saw. I’m excited to be riding such a magnificent individual.”

Nimble Nimbus powered to narrow success in the HK$4.2 million G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) for Ricky Yiu and Andrea Atzeni, earning the praise of both trainer and jockey.

“He’s an amazing horse, he never gets beaten far and is very consistent no matter the distance,” Yiu said. “I always thought that this horse would go well over 1800m and Sha Tin is a better course than Happy Valley for him as it’s a longer straight. He was drawn wide last time and had a much better draw this time.”

Jumping from barrier five, Nimble Nimbus advanced to his sixth win from at his 27th start after Atzeni took the gelding to the outside of the field before denying Five G Patch by a head with Straight Arron an impressive third.

Atzeni said: “I think the horse (Nimble Nimbus) deserved it – he’s been knocking on the door. He’s not had the best of luck with the draws and when I looked at the draw and we’d drawn five, I thought ‘Thank God, we’ve finally got a decent draw with him.’

“Ricky was very confident and he put no pressure on. He told me to ride him quiet and challenge as late as I could.”

Yiu made it a double when Sunlight Power landed the first section of the Class 4 Gladiolus Handicap (1400m) under Harry Bentley before Size clinched a brace when Bundle Of Charm snared the Class 2 Azalea Handicap (1200m, dirt) for Alexis Badel.

Frankie Lor hopes Illuminous can develop into a BMW Hong Kong Derby contender after the gelding’s fast-finishing victory in the Class 3 Peach Blossom Handicap (1200m) under Karis Teetan.

Making his first appearance in Hong Kong after racing in Australia as Cosmic Enigma for Richard Cully, the four-year-old settled at the tail of the field before surging strongly in the straight to down fellow Hong Kong debutant Young Champion to collect a HK$1.5 million PP Bonus.

“He won really well. The jockey said the pace was fast, and that was really good, so he can come strong from behind,” Lor said before outlining a possible Derby path. “The (Hong Kong) Classic Cup is 1800m, so I need to think about maybe skipping the Classic Cup and let him run over 1400m or 1600m.”

Fellow BMW Hong Kong Derby nominee Ka Ying Generation, a Churchill gelding, showcased his staying capacity with a dogged win in the Class 3 Daffodil Handicap (2000m) for Pierre Ng and Atzeni.

“He’s a stayer and I think at least 2000m upwards will suit,” Ng said. “It’s good to have a stayer in the stable. We’ll try and build him up and hopefully he gets into the Derby and he runs well in the Derby.

“I know it’s a bit rushed and that was only his fourth run in Hong Kong, but he managed to do that today and I’m very happy with him.”

A polytrack winner in Deauville in 2021, Manfred Man’s Spangle Fortune broke through for his first Hong Kong win with success in the Class 5 Primula Handicap (1200m, dirt) under Derek Leung before Dennis Yip’s Panda forged to success in the Class 4 Peony Handicap (1000m) for Zac Purton.

Yip completed a double with Vantastic Choice’s win in the second section of the Class 4 Gladiolus Handicap (1400m) under Angus Chung. The rider later prevailed aboard Baby Crystal for trainer Francis Lui in the Class 3 Cineraria Handicap (1000m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (7 February).

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