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The Stewards' Cup is the first leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown series.
Furore returns to a mile in the G1 Stewards' Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, January 19 (US, Saturday, Jan 18) with trainer Frankie Lor hoping a short bout of sickness over the Christmas period will not have dulled the gelding's big-race capability.
"He had a temperature for a few days so I had to stop and watch him very closely to see how he came through that; that's why he hasn't had a barrier trial before this race," Lor said.
But the handler is not letting that setback dampen his belief in last season's Four-Year-Old Classic Series standout.
"I'm happy with him now; his track-work, his gallops in the mornings - I galloped him on Monday and he was good, and we'll jump him out on Thursday morning," he said.
"Those few days off, we don't know if there will be any effect for him but he looks good in the mornings."
Race 5 at Sha Tin on Saturday, January 18 - Post 1:15 AM
|1||Beauty Generation||5-2||Zac Purton
|5||Southern Legend||13-2||Blake Shinn
|6||Citron Spirit||18-1||Silvestre De Sousa
|3||Ka Ying Star||10-1||Karis Teetan
|A S Cruz|
Furore was last seen running a solid fourth to Win Bright in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup over 2000m, the distance at which he captured the BMW Hong Kong Derby last term. This weekend will see him step out over 1600m for the first time since a big victory at the distance a year ago.
"Last year he won the Hong Kong Classic Mile so I think a mile is no problem for him," Lor said.
And the handler has no reservations about mixing distances for his high-class galloper, with a return to 2000m likely next month.
"You can't wait for too long and you have to go with the program, so after this he'll be going to the (G1) Hong Kong Gold Cup over 2000 meters - I think anything from 1600 to 2000 metres would be his target," he said.
Hugh Bowman was in the plate for Furore's big-race wins last season, and, after watching the Pierro five-year-old show little sparkle in his first two outings of this campaign, Lor was pleased to have the Australian ace back aboard for his most recent two efforts.
"Hugh Bowman will ride him again in the Stewards' Cup; only the horse's first two starts were a bit below what we would expect but then when Hugh got back on him he was much better - I think Hugh is a good fit for him," Lor said.
Furore will face last year's winner and Hong Kong Horse of the Year Beauty Generation in the HK$10 million test, as well as Waikuku, who was ahead of the champion when they finished second and third behind Japan's Admire Mars in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) last time out.
Sunday's action also includes the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m), featuring star sprinters Beat The Clock, Hot King Prawn, Mr Stunning and D B Pin.
Richard Gibson is unperturbed by the outsider labels tagged to his stable stalwarts Rattan and Wishful Thinker as they stride into Sunday's (19 January) two Group 1 features at Sha Tin Racecourse with eyes fixed on snagging a share of the lucrative prize fund.
"They're both in really good nick," Gibson said. "We'll take our chance in both events as outsiders."
Rattan will take on Beauty Generation's might and Waikuku's burgeoning class in the HK$10 million Stewards' Cup (1600m), while Wishful Thinker will again mix it with Beat The Clock and the rest of the circuit's best sprinters in the HK$10 million Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m).
A win for either Gibson runner would be a turn-up but the Englishman - who has already bagged a notable career haul of Hong Kong majors - would not be surprised to see his pair run well in races in which he has had a big say previously. Four years ago the stable's Giant Treasure carried off the Stewards' Cup and Gold-Fun pocketed the runner-up cheque in the Centenary Sprint Cup.
Rattan will attempt to emulate Giant Treasure, although the six-year-old will be stepping out over a mile for the first time in 14 months, having joined the top echelon of Hong Kong's sprint ranks through the latter part of last term.
"We've chosen to go back to the mile," Gibson said of Rattan, who finished a below-par 10th in the G1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) last time.
"We've chosen the mile because I thought it was maybe an easier division than the sprint," he continued. "It's a funny place, Hong Kong - suddenly he's the second-highest rated horse in the race, which is to his credit; it's to his credit that he's still standing and that he's still in excellent health; and it's to his credit that he's a flexible racehorse."
Rattan has raced prominently over sprint trips in recent times but made his name ascending the handicap ranks with come-from-behind surges in races from 1400m to 1800m. The Savabeel gelding heads in off a 1200m barrier trial that saw him close from 11th to third.
"I was very happy with his trial the other day, riding him cold," Gibson said. "He'll be ridden in a similar manner on Sunday and we'll see if we can pick up some place prize money."
Wishful Thinker will line up in the Centenary Sprint Cup off a strong 1200m (dirt) barrier trial last Friday, when he finished ahead of all including Beat The Clock and Beauty Generation.
"It was quite impressive," Gibson admitted.
The handler, though, is of the opinion that the Australian-bred - a length and a half sixth in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint last month - might shine brightest over a furlong more than Sunday's test.
"I think his best chance in a Group 1 is going to be over 1400 metres, which is in a month's time in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup," he said.
"He's a fantastic physical, he's obviously done very well in Hong Kong but my gut feeling says 1200 metres in this Group 1 class is still a big ask. He's in terrific shape but I'd prefer to see him over 1400m."
Christophe Soumillon flew in to partner Giant Treasure and Gold-Fun back in 2016 and the Belgian ace will make the trip to ride Wishful Thinker this time. Vincent Ho is expected to partner Rattan.
The Stewards' Cup is a Group 1 race run under Weight For Age conditions for the milers at Sha Tin conducted by Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The Stewards' Cup is a turf race run over 1600m. It was first run in 1954 over 1200m at Happy Valley.
It is the first leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown leading into the Gold Cup and then the Champions & Chater Cup.
It became a mile race in 1991 and was granted HKG1 status. In 2015 it became an international G1.
In recent years, John Size has five wins in the race as a trainer while Tony Cruz has four victories.
Over the same time frame, leading jockeys are Douglas Whyte, Robbie Fradd and Basil Marcus with three apiece.
The Stewards' Cup was worth HK$10m in 2020.
Notable winners of the Stewards' Cup include: Beauty Generation (2019), Helene Paragon (2017), Able Friend (2015), Blazing Speed (2014), Glorious Days (2013), Ambitious Dragon (2012), Good Ba Ba (2008/2009), Bullish Luck (2005), Super Kid (2004), Electronic Unicorn (2002/2003), Fairy King Prawn (2001) and Mr Vitality (1995).
The 2019 Stewards' Cup was won by Beauty Generation from Conte and Southern Legend.
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