Hamelin chases first Group win, Derby hero Sky Darci returns

Antoine Hamelin gets a terrific chance to secure his first Group win in Hong Kong when he jumps aboard Champion’s Way in the Lion Rock Trophy (1,600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.

The Frenchman, who made the move to Hong Kong just over a year ago, has had a handful of close calls so far with placings at Group One, Group Two and Group Three level but is edging towards a breakthrough.

The John Size-trained Champion’s Way has had four starts in Group Three handicaps for two wins, a second and a third, with one of those victories coming in this race two years ago.

The five-year-old is not quite up to matching the elite at set weights in Group Ones but these races seem to suit him perfectly.

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Champion’s Way looks to get all the favours on Sunday in the small field, drawing barrier one and getting in with just 121 pounds.

“I hope I can win my first Group race in Hong Kong – I’m really happy to be riding this horse,” Hamelin said.

“His trial was good and I think we have a lot of things going for us. Hopefully it all works out and I can win another nice race for Mr Size.

“Everything looks good – the distance, the barrier, the weight. We will still need a little bit of luck but I’m confident we can get the job done.

“It always makes it easier with a good draw. We just have to jump, find some cover and hopefully [Ka Ying Star and Healthy Happy] set a good pace for us and we can run over the top.”

The Group Three Lion Rock Trophy also sees the return of Sky Darci, who hasn’t graced the track since his memorable win in the Hong Kong Derby.

Trainer Caspar Fownes is bullish about his chances, particularly given he will carry just 115 pounds with jockey Joao Moreira riding one over.

“I’m extremely pleased, he’s had a couple of nice trials, he’s ready to go to the races,” Fownes said.

“He’s come back nice and well. Dropping back in trip now, he’s got a fresh pair of legs and it’s a nice small field, so he’s going to be competitive. We still respect our opposition in those types of races.

“There are a few nice horses in there carrying lighter weight and obviously at the top end you’ve got Ka Ying [Star] and More Than [This]– he looks a good horse as well – but this race normally the lighter weighted horses have an advantage at the end of the season.”

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One of the questions surrounding Sky Darci is about his best distance – the Derby trip of 2,000m was probably at the top end of his limit – but his trainer thinks he’s pretty versatile.

“I think fresh, he could be a pretty smart sprinter, really – 1,200m to 1,400m. That’s why this race is a little bit of a test for us, coming back and against older horses but at least being a handicap, it should give us some sort of an advantage,” Fownes said.

“It will certainly give us a gauge as to where we think he’s going to be and what distance we’re going to be training him for.

“He might have one more race after this just depending on how he runs and how he pulls up. If he gives us a big effort, there’s no reason I wouldn’t give him one more race on the 20th of June.”

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