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Russian Emperor aims to rule in Qatar for a second time

February 7, 2024 at 3:41:41 AM

Two-time Hong Kong Champion Stayer (2021/22 & 2022/23) Russian Emperor will ship to Doha, Qatar on Friday, 9 February in his quest to secure consecutive wins in the QAT G1 H.H. The Amir Trophy (2400m) at Al Rayyan for trainer Douglas Whyte.

Two-time Hong Kong Champion Stayer (2021/22 & 2022/23) Russian Emperor will ship to Doha, Qatar on Friday, 9 February in his quest to secure consecutive wins in the QAT G1 H.H. The Amir Trophy (2400m) at Al Rayyan for trainer Douglas Whyte.

“He leaves on Friday night and he’ll have an easy day on Saturday (10 February) followed by a few nice canters across the next few days. I’ll jump on him on Tuesday morning (13 February) – he’ll have a turf gallop.

“He’s been there and he’s a professional at travelling – he loves it and he’s very smart. He’ll be in the same quarantine box and same environment. I’m looking forward to getting over there,” Whyte said.

Laying the groundwork for his Middle East adventure this morning (Tuesday, 6 February) at Sha Tin in a turf barrier trial over 1600m, Russian Emperor cruised through his hit-out to finish third under jockey Brenton Avdulla in a time of 1m 37.73s.

“That was a beautiful trial. He travelled nicely and did everything that was asked of him in the straight – he hit the line strongly and it was a nice top-off piece of work ahead of the 17th of February,” Whyte said.

Romantic Warrior crossed the line first in the same exercise under jockey Hugh Bowman ahead of his HK$13 million G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) task on 25 February for trainer Danny Shum.

Russian Emperor has earnt HK$47.99 million. Sired by Galileo, the seven-year-old suffered a left front fetlock injury at the end of last November.

“He’s always had niggling issues and we’ve managed him carefully in the past and he seems as good as gold at the moment,” Whyte said.

All three of Russian Emperor’s wins in Hong Kong have come at Group 1 level, previously claiming the 2022 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup over Golden Sixty and a pair of G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) triumphs in 2022 and 2023.

Russian Emperor placed seventh in the HK$13 million G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) behind Voyage Bubble last month.

“There’s Rebel’s Romance and Zeffiro – he ran second in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (G1, 2400m). So, it’s a tougher assignment in Qatar but my horse has fresh legs and he’s in good order,” Whyte said.

Israr, Point Lonsdale, Satono Glanz, North Bridge and Simca Mille are all potentials to run in the H.H. The Amir Trophy, a contest worth US$2.5 million (approx. HK$19.55 million).

Looking to recapture his best form, California Spangle trialled under Bowman for trainer Tony Cruz in the first batch today, leading throughout in 58.33s.

Watch Buddy (129lb) has won three out of five starts at Happy Valley and goes for a second win in Class 3 when he contests the second section of the Victoria Park Handicap (1200m) on Wednesday (7 February) under Harry Bentley for trainer Ricky Yiu.

“He’s an ultra-consistent type and he’s done nothing but improve. I really liked him when I first sat on him last season,” Bentley said.

The four-year-old will carry an added nine pounds following his last win when he faces 11 rivals including the rapidly improving Healthy Healthy (128lb), a three-time winner this season.

“He’s (Watch Buddy) quite a good size horse, he’s not overly tall but he’s stocky so he should handle the added weight ok – but it’s a factor to consider. The draw (two) will help him – he can just bounce out and sit somewhere behind the pace,” Bentley said.

Bentley and Yiu combined on Sunday (4 February) at Sha Tin with Sunlight Power.

Wednesday’s (7 February) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.40pm with the first section of the Class 5 Shan Kwong Road Park Handicap (1650m).

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