Tianchi Monster squeezed into Sunday’s (17 March) BMW Hong Kong Derby with a Class 3 handicap win over the 2000m course and distance at the end of last month.

But while trainer Chris So’s galloper is a late gate-crasher to the Four-Year-old Classic Series party, his participation in the HK$18 million has long been the plan.

“From the beginning, when he came in last season, he was rated 74 and the owner wanted to try to go the Derby path. He expected he could be a Derby runner,” the trainer said.

A Derby berth seemed a long way off when the New Zealand Listed winner finished seventh on his seventh Hong Kong start without a win since import. That effort came in a Class 3 over 1800m in early December, off a rating of 68.

“We had to take it step-by-step but he’s got there,” So said.

The son of Shocking stepped up off that defeat to score over 2000m before the turn of the year. A backward step next start when only sixth was banished to irrelevance when Tianchi Monster posted back-to-back wins over 1800m and again at 2000m.

That lifted his rating to 86 and earned him his big race spot. But he is still 22lb behind top-rated Waikuku.

“We know he stays the distance, that’s the main thing. He’s twice proven that he can win at 2000 metres and not many horses in the field have done that,” So said.

“He’s in good shape and I hope he can run well. Of course, his rating is one of the lowest and he has only won in Class 3 but his times are good and he carried 133lb last time so that was quite impressive.”

Horses on the up invariably run well in the BMW Hong Kong Derby and Tianchi Monster has certainly found his roar of late.

“He’s learned more with each race and he’s more relaxed now so at the distance he should perform well,” So continued.

The trainer, who saddled subsequent star Australian sprinter Redkirk Warrior to finish 11th as Derby favourite in 2015, has turned to Aussie ace Craig Williams to partner his contender this time.

“Craig is a big-race jockey, he knows Hong Kong and he knows how to win big races; he has good hands and can relax a horse, so we’re happy to have him on our horse,” So said.

Article via HKJC

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