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Rain forecast as Russian Emperor prepares for Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup defence

May 23, 2024 at 4:22:36 AM

Rain is at the top of trainer Douglas Whyte’s wish list and the Hong Kong Observatory has currently bestowed a favourable forecast upon him and stable star Russian Emperor.

Rain is at the top of trainer Douglas Whyte’s wish list and the Hong Kong Observatory has currently bestowed a favourable forecast upon him and stable star Russian Emperor.

Seeking a third straight HK$13 million G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (26 May), Russian Emperor thrives on wet tracks and is set to receive his preferred conditions with daily rainfall expected until early next week.

“It’s (rain) not going to inconvenience me or my horse. Let’s hope it sticks around until the weekend,” Whyte said. “I sat on him this morning (Tuesday, 21 May) for a turf gallop – he felt amazing, he strode out beautifully and he loved getting his toe in. It was a good piece of work and he’s on song.”

The Irish-bred son of Galileo famously won the 2022 G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) on yielding ground over Golden Sixty. The two-time Hong Kong Champion Stayer (2021/22 & 2022/23) Russian Emperor clocked 1m 21.8s (30.2, 28.8, 22.8) this morning.

“He’s been primed for this race. It’s been well documented that this is the race that I have had in mind all year and he comes good this time of the year. If the rain sticks around it’s going to enhance his chances but Rebel’s Romance is a really good horse – the way he won in Dubai, he looks like a proper individual,” Whyte said.


Russian Emperor wins the 2023 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup.

Rebel’s Romance arrives in Hong Kong as the third international to contest the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup after Chemical Charge (2018) and Happy Grin (2019).

Five G Patch, La City Blanche, Straight Arron, Senor Toba, Moments In Time and Massive Sovereign also hold entries.

Russian Emperor – a seven-year-old – finished seventh earlier this month in the HK$4.2 million G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) under jockey Hugh Bowman.

“I think he rolled into the race beautifully on the bend, he knocked up over the 150 metres, but he was entitled to with the preparation that he has had. He has that distance into his legs now and he’s stripped fitter, it’s three weeks between runs so the timing has worked out well,” Whyte said.

Russian Emperor has won three times in Hong Kong – each time at Group 1 level.

“He’s been the star of my yard and the making of my young career (as a trainer). He’s going to be very sadly missed when the day comes that he has to retire.

“He’s been like a kid to me, we’ve done a lot together. I’m pretty much the only one that’s ever galloped him – so we have a very tight bond,” Whyte said.

Since 1975, River Verdon (1991-1994) has the most wins in the race, while the only three-time victors are Super Win (1975-1977), Silver Lining (1978, 1979 & 1981) and Viva Pataca (2006, 2007 & 2009).

Whyte – Hong Kong’s legendary jockey-turned-trainer – has a team of five entered at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (22 May), including Majestic Knight in the HK$2.84 million Class 2 Wiltshire Handicap (1200m).

“He’s held his form well. I think he’s improved over the last six months and he’s developed into a lovely strong individual. He’s as honest as the day is long,” Whyte said.

The five-year-old is a two-time winner in the grade. He will seek back-to-back wins under Bowman and has been assigned 135lb as he rises in trip from 1000m.

“1200 (metres) is not a concern, I think the concern is the gate (nine). He’s got his work cut out but the trip is not a concern at all,” Whyte said.

Wednesday’s (22 May) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley commences at 6.40pm with the Class 5 Chester Handicap (2200m).

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