The prospect of rain ahead of the HK$12-million Grade 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday would complete Russian Emperor’s precise preparation, according to trainer Douglas Whyte.
Seeking a third Grade 1 victory this season after successes with Russian Emperor (Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, 2000m) and Stronger (Centenary Sprint Cup, 1200m), Whyte is adamant yielding ground is not a prerequisite for Russian Emperor to fire – but he is doubtlessly superior on rain-affected surfaces.
“He doesn’t need it wet but he enjoys it,” Whyte said. “If he gets a sweet run and the ground is good, he’ll let down and do what he can, but when the ground has got a bit of give in it, you can put him anywhere and he just starts travelling. You don’t have to do anything on him.”
A runaway winner of the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup on yielding ground on 20 February, when he scored by 4.25 lengths and trounced five of Sunday’s rivals – Panfield, Butterfield, Tourbillon Diamond, Reliable Team and Zebrowski – as well as Golden Sixty, Russian Emperor finished fifth on a good track behind Romantic Warrior in the Grade 1 QEII Cup (2000m) on 24 April.
Whyte is confident the regally-bred gelding is now primed to perform at his best – regardless of conditions – after cruising over 1200m in 1m.22s at Sha Tin on Tuesday 17 May.
“I sat on him and he had his final gallop for the weekend and he felt great underneath me. I wish there was a bit more rain around at the weekend – that would enhance his chances,” Whyte said.
“But rain or no rain, the horse is going into the race in good form. The barrier trial (on 10 May) was good. I was glad to see him finish off well and more so to see him pull up well after the trial.”
Russian Emperor, who will be ridden by Blake Shinn, faces several familiar rivals on Sunday, notably reigning Hong Kong Champion Stayer Panfield, who is on trial for the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen (2200m) at Hanshin Racecourse on 26 June.
Tony Millard’s flagbearer will reunite with Karis Teetan, who was aboard the Chilean-bred when he snared the 2021 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, defeating Columbus County and Exultant. Russian Emperor was sixth in last year’s edition.
Millard will also be represented by Nordic Sky under Antoine Hamelin, while Caspar Fownes has three starters – Columbus County (Matthew Chadwick), Zebrowski (Vincent Ho) and Senor Toba (Joao Moreira).
Ka Ying Star (Luke Ferraris), Tourbillon Diamond (Alexis Badel), Butterfield (Zac Purton) and Reliable Team (Derek Leung) complete the field.
The Grade 3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m) is the other Black-Type contest on Sunday’s card, featuring a cast of established and rising gallopers headed by 2021 Grade 1 Hong Kong Sprint winner Sky Field, Lucky Patch, Computer Patch, Hot King Prawn, Super Wealthy, Sight Success, Lucky Express, Duke Wai, Californiadeepshot, Cordyceps Six and Nervous Witness.
Matthew Chadwick partners Computer Patch.
“He’s drawn nice again (barrier No 3), which always helps. He’s in nice form, he’s going quite well and he’s a happy horse so hopefully he can go one better,” Chadwick said of Jimmy Ting’s charge.
A dual course and distance winner, Computer Patch is yet to win this season but finished second to Wellington in the Grade 1 FWD Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin on 24 April. – Hong Kong Jockey Club