It is a road less travelled to the Longines Hong Kong International Races (HKIR), but for the second year in a row, Excellent Proposal and Butterfield are using the Class One Chevalier Cup (1,600m) as their last starts en route to Sha Tin’s marquee meeting.
Excellent Proposal and Butterfield, second and third respectively in last season’s Chevalier Cup that Silver Express won carrying a feather weight, made the cut for this season’s HKIR features when the Jockey Club announced the fields on Wednesday.
Also for the second year in a row, John Size-trained Excellent Proposal is bound for the Group One Hong Kong Mile, and Danny Shum Chap-shing-prepared Butterfield is heading towards the Group One Hong Kong Vase (2,400m). HKIR, whose four Group Ones are worth HK$110 million, is set for December 11.
Over the past 10 seasons, just seven horses have trodden the path from the Chevalier Cup to an HKIR event, and only one of them has gone from contesting the Class One race to placing on Sha Tin’s big day.
Khaya, who Size saddled to finish second to All You Wish in the 2014 Chevalier Cup, ran in that year’s Hong Kong Vase a fortnight later, crossing the line third behind Flintshire and Willie Cazals after trying to make all from the second widest gate.
Pleasure Gain (10th in the 2014 Vase), Northern Superstar (fifth in the 2018 Cup), What Else But You (13th in the 2018 Mile), Lucky Express (11th in the 2021 Mile), Excellent Proposal (10th in the 2021 Mile) and Butterfield (seventh in the 2021 Vase) did not fly the Chevalier Cup’s flag at HKIR anywhere near as well as Khaya did in the 2014 Vase.
Precision, who was seventh in the 2002 Chevalier Cup, is the only galloper to parlay a Chevalier Cup run into an HKIR triumph, with David Oughton’s roughie overcoming the outside barrier and tote odds of $65.8 to take out that year’s Hong Kong Cup under Michael Kinane.
Not that the dismal HKIR record of Chevalier Cup runners will concern the connections of the eight horses who are set to compete against Excellent Proposal and Butterfield, both of whom are on 16-race losing streaks, at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Among them are three last-start winners – Size’s Running Glory, who was victorious in a Class Two contest last weekend, David Hall’s Class One Panasonic Cup champion Beluga and Tony Cruz’s Beautyverse, the Group One South Australian Derby (2,500m) hero who triumphed on his Hong Kong debut.
Champion jockey Zac Purton partnered Running Glory, Beluga and Beautyverse to their recent wins. With the new King of Happy Valley – Purton became the city circuit’s most successful rider on Wednesday when Amazing Rocky carried him to his 573rd victory at the track – committed to Beautyverse, Size has booked Vagner Borges to steer Running Glory and Hall has engaged Hugh Bowman to pilot Beluga.
Antoine Hamelin is not assigned to ride a Chevalier Cup runner, but the French jockey – who returned a positive Covid test on Sunday morning – has half a dozen bookings on Sha Tin’s 10-race programme.
Jockey Club officials have confirmed Hamelin must return a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) on Saturday, as well as negative RAT and polymerase chain reaction results on Sunday, to ride at Sha Tin, with riders on standby to fulfil his commitments if any of his tests come back with a positive outcome.