Hong Kong duo full steam ahead to Dubai Sheema Classic despite differing fortunes | HK Racing

Senor Toba and Russian Emperor remain full steam ahead towards the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic (2,410m) despite differing fortunes at Meydan on Saturday night.

Douglas Whyte could not have been happier after Russian Emperor stormed home for fifth at a distance short of his best in the Group One Jebel Hatta (1,800m).

“It was a thrill to see the horse get back to last and work his way home the way I expected. That was my plan, and he ran home as expected,” Whyte said of Russian Emperor, who took out Qatar’s H.H. The Amir Trophy on February 18.

“He’s just thrived since he’s been away. He hit a bit of a flat spot when he arrived in Dubai [from Qatar], but he really lifted his game the last three days. He got to the races in impeccable condition. He walked around the parade ring like he owned it. He went down to the start the same way, and that’s how he raced. It was pleasing to watch. He’s on song.”

Caspar Fownes was left a little perplexed by Senor Toba’s flat eighth in the Group Two Dubai City Of Gold (2,410m), but he will not be calling time on the grey’s Middle East mission just yet.

“It was just weird because he absolutely would not have blown a candle out after the race. Physically, he looked well – I was very happy with him. He travelled all right, but when it came to crunch time … he’s way better than that,” Fownes said.

“We’ll push on and we’ll see. Horses can turn around a margin of five or six lengths very easily when they’re spot on.”

Senor Toba and Russian Emperor are expected to be part of a strong Hong Kong contingent stepping out at the Dubai World Cup on March 25, with Sky Field, Sight Success, and possibly Sunday’s Class One Devon Handicap (1,200m) winner, Duke Wai, bound for the Group One Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) down the Meydan straight.

Doubles the order of the day

Ricky Yiu Poon-fai was the stand-out performer at Sha Tin on Sunday with a four-timer, but he was not the only trainer to continue his strong form, with David Hayes landing a double thanks to the wins of Chiron and The Multiplier.

After going 62 runners without a winner before Allgreektome’s victory on February 22, Hayes now has five winners from the past four meetings, including doubles at consecutive meetings.

“It’s good to get things rolling. When they’re running consistently, if you get the luck, they start to win,” Hayes said.

The Multiplier was the first leg of a double for Lyle Hewitson, who also saluted aboard the Michael Chang Chun-wai-trained Ching, while Matthew Chadwick landed a lucrative brace thanks to Everyone’s Delight’s success in the Class One Norfolk Handicap (1,650m) on the all-weather track and Champion Dragon’s impressive Class Two Rutland Handicap (1,800m) victory.

Everyone’s Delight surprised his more-fancied rivals in one of the afternoon’s two Class One contests, travelling beautifully in the box seat before proving too strong in a four-way go on the line to salute at $27.

After progressing through the grades with five wins on the turf, Everyone’s Delight pocketed his first all-weather win and maiden Class One success and will find himself with a rating in the mid-90s.

Silvestre de Sousa also went home with a double, winning aboard Yiu-trained pair Excellent Fighter and Colonel, while Karis Teetan also cashed in for the in-form veteran, saluting aboard Darci Joy and Adefill.

Purton talking timelines again

The future of five-time Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton has been a talking point since before the start of season 2022-23, and the star Australian’s magnificent Randwick hit-and-run mission has only served to add further fuel to the fire.

There was talk Purton might pack his bags after the Longines Hong Kong International Races, but then December came and the 40-year-old said he would “at least go through to the end of this season, then we can reassess”.

Purton has his sights set on Joao Moreira’s single-season record of 170 wins, will partner favourite Beauty Eternal in the Hong Kong Derby later this month and target more big-race victories with Lucky Sweynesse and California Spangle before the end of the campaign.

But after his Group One double aboard Artorius and Communist in Sydney on Saturday, Purton certainly did not rule out the prospect this could be his final Hong Kong season.

Purton made it clear over the weekend how much he and his family were loving being back in Australia, suggesting he would like to make a decision on his future by the end of April and telling Racenet “I don’t want to drag it on. Everything is on the table. I’m not swayed one way or the other at the moment”.


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