Take The Challenge At Sha Tin On Sunday

Jamie Richards will be looking to secure a place in the BMW Hong Kong Derby with Alacrity in the Class 3 Suffolk Handicap at Sha Tin on Sunday, adding further impetus to an impressive mid-season upswing.

In the turmoil of his first season in Hong Kong, the multiple former New Zealand champion coach systematically collected 18 wins from 178 starters after a deliberately conservative start to the season.

Jamie Richards – Derby plans need to be stepped up on Sunday (Image – HKJC)

With 53 Group 1 wins during a record-breaking six-and-a-half-year stint at Te Akau Racing, Richards is familiar with elite success and hopes Alacrity – a Chilean G1 winner as Viejos Tiempos – can build on a flashy race of fourth behind leading BMW Hong Kong Derby competitor Beauty Eternal over 1400m in Sha Tin on February 12.

“He’s a high quality horse who came to Hong Kong in good shape so it wasn’t a complete surprise that he ran well the first time,” said Richards. “He’s got an awkward barrier this weekend (13) so I’d say we’d have to ride him similar to how we did the first time but he’s going to need luck and he’s going to need pace in the race to finish it – but I’m looking forward to that see how he develops.”

Richards is keenly aware the 78er will need to push for victory on Sunday to boost Derby hopes.

“He probably needs to win at the weekend – if not finish in the top three – to get his rating a little bit higher. We’re definitely trying to get him there (to the derby) and with a more favorable draw I probably would have been pretty confident he’s running well enough to play a part in the final but he’ll need a lot of luck on the outer barrier ‘ he said before explaining the decision to remove the cheek pieces.

“Last time he just wanted to overdo it a bit early in the race so for this weekend’s run we took the cheek pieces off – just a minor adjustment to the gear – but we were just trying to make him a little more relaxed in the early part of the race race.”

Karis Teetan, who partnered Romantic Warrior in winning the 2022 BMW Hong Kong Derby, firmly believes Alacrity deserves Classic’s attention.

“I think he’s definitely a Derby horse – the further he gets the better he gets – so it’s a race that’s very important for the horse and if he runs well he could compete for the Derby,” said the Mauritian.

“We were all happy with his first run, he finished well and that shows there is improvement to come. He’s a horse that needs ground, we don’t have many chances in this draw.”

Hugh Bowman continues his partnership with Running Glory as the small stayer from John Size battles for back-to-back wins when he contests the Class 2 Rutland Handicap (1800m), confident the five-year-old can continue to thrive.

Hugh Bowman and Running Glory – competitive again? (Image – HKJC)

“Pleased to be reunited with him and he’s top-weight (135lbs) this time and he’s not a big horse but what he lacks in size he certainly makes up for in grit. He’s a very consistent horse – he’s got a great record – and despite being at the top of the handicap he looks well placed again,” said Bowman.

“He just has a great attitude. Very versatile tactically, he gets into a good rhythm and saves for the last effort that matters the most. They want to think that I’ll get the run of the race and if it’s a steady race he’ll get into that nice rhythm.

“If he’s close enough to fight for the goal, he’ll come out on top.”

Fresh off a Happy Valley double on Wednesday night (March 1), David Hayes will battle stablemates Nervous Witness and Lucky With You in the Class 1 Devon Handicap (1200m).

Facing Courier Wonder (135 lb), Duke Wai (132 lb), Master Eight (125 lb), Rewarding Together (123 lb), Blaze Warrior (121 lb) and Campione (121 lb), Nervous Witness (122 lb) and Lucky With You (118 lb) are both looking to improve their form.

Hayes will use a hood on Nervous Witness as the speedster attempts to complete the 1200m run against high profile opponents.

“His weakness is that if you pull he gets too aggressive and doesn’t win in top class races. We just hope the hood takes 10 percent off him and relaxes well,” said the Hong Kong doubles champion’s coach.

“Now that he’s well prepared after three runs and a trial, there’s no reason why he won’t run 1200 meters, but how easily he’ll make it through the first 600 meters of barrier eight is the question. “

Hayes has refreshed Lucky With You since a failure at the last start.

“He had an impressive stage and he will come off the pace and if they go too fast he could have a chance. He’ll likely need to run a PB (personal best) to beat these horses, but trackwork suggests he might be up for it. “When it comes to Last Man Standing, maybe he’s the one going along,” Hayes said.

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Sunday’s 10 race card at Sha Tin starts at 07:00 with the Class 5 Cornwall Handicap (1650m, dirt).

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