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Whyte, Millard eye Queen Mother Memorial Cup glory with BMW Hong Kong Derby place-getters

April 29, 2021 at 10:20:59 AM

Russian Emperor and Panfield, who were denied by Sky Darci in an epic BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) last month, will resume a budding rivalry at Sha Tin on Sunday (2 May) when the classy imports clash in the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m).

Russian Emperor, who finished second by a head in the 21 March Classic, was chased to the line by Panfield, who finished seventh, just three quarters of a length behind Sky Darci.

Both horses' efforts left both Douglas Whyte (Russian Emperor) and Tony Millard (Panfield) pondering what could have been with better late-race passages.

Rather than focusing on the past, Whyte believes Russian Emperor, a son of Galileo and champion Australian mare Atlantic Jewel, has completely recovered from the rigors of the Derby.

“He did very well in the Derby. After that, I gave him a break and prepared him for this race. He trialed very well (on 20 April); I'm pleased with how he performed in that trial, and things are looking up for the weekend.”

Given the Irish-bred colt's strong successes in England, where he finished seventh in the Epsom Derby (2405m) for Aidan O'Brien last year, Whyte is sure the four-year-old can handle Sunday's task.

“Based on his pedigree and overseas type, 2400 metres should be appropriate. Hong Kong obviously gives horses a lot of speed. He demonstrated the last time in the Derby when he was sat in third and fourth place, while previously he couldn't keep up,” Whyte said.

“It would be a learning opportunity for both of us, but the way he is performing, he should be able to get the gap.

“I put on the blinkers simply to take control and concentrate, and that is the explanation for that, because there is no concern about him settling.

“It's all of him demonstrating the turn of foot that he demonstrated last time. You can stretch these horses for a long distance, and they don't all have the same turn of foot. But he has the endurance to compensate.

“If he runs well, he'll go to the (Standard Chartered) Champions & Chater Cup (on May 23) and then be through for the season, and we'll look forward to great things next season.”

Russian Emperor (124lb) will start from gate seven for Karis Teetan in a race led by Caspar Fownes' Columbus County (133lb), while last year's champion Chefano (123lb) will start from gate 12.

Tony Millard, the dual Derby champion, has no reservations about Panfield, a triple G1 winner in Chile, including victory in the El Ensayo Mega over 2400m.

“He's recovered well, and I'm particularly pleased with him. “He came up well from the Derby,” Millard added. “He was a little unfortunate in the Derby, but I think he's in good shape for this run. The gap is not a problem. He has previously prevailed over the distance in Chile.”

Joao Moreira will start Panfield (121lb) from barrier three.

“Joao is particularly pleased with him. He rode him in the barrier trial (on April 23), and he's pleased with how he's progressing,” Millard added. “The resistance is formidable. We have the Derby second horse (Russian Emperor), and he's a boom horse.”

The Argonaut Plate (1000m), a Griffins run, kicks off Sunday's (2 May) 11-race card at 12.30pm at Sha Tin.

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