Bowman, Helios Express, Hong Kong Derby

March 24, 2024

Helios Express wins the Hong Kong Classic Cup. (HKJC/Alex Evers)

Hugh Bowman plots conservative BMW Hong Kong Derby ride on Helios Express

By Leo Schlink

Hoping to guide Helios Express to complete dominance of the 2024 Four-Year-Old Classic Series with victory in the HK$26 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (24 March), Hugh Bowman will adopt conservative tactics on John Size’s contender.

Chasing a third Classic triumph in Hong Kong after victories on John Moore’s Werther (2016) and Frankie Lor’s Furore (2019), Bowman and Helios Express stand on the brink of series history after wins in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m).

BMW Hong Kong Derby victory would elevate Helios Express to parity in terms of four-year-old achievement with Rapper Dragon (2017) and Golden Sixty (2020) – the only two horses to clean sweep the series.

But, in order to remain unbeaten in the series, Helios Express will have to become the first horse to win the BMW Hong Kong Derby from barrier 13 since Industrial Pioneer in 2001.

“It’s important that he (Helios Express) relaxes. He needs to relax to run the distance, so we’ll have to ride a conservative race. It’ll depend on other people’s decisions as to how far back we go, but we’ll just get him to settle whether he’s midfield or further back. There’s not that much I can do about it,” Bowman said.

“He’s got the class, but we don’t want to undo it in the first half, we’ve got to ensure we’ve got some energy left for the business end. If we can get the nice, smooth run like as I’ve said all along, he ought to make his presence felt.”

Hugh Bowman knows what it takes to win the BMW Hong Kong Derby. (HKJC/Alex Evers)
Hugh Bowman knows what it takes to win the BMW Hong Kong Derby. (HKJC/Alex Evers)

Helios Express will be flanked by two of his main rivals on Sunday, when Galaxy Patch steps away from gate 14 under Blake Shinn and Size stablemate Ensued jumps from barrier 12 for Ryan Moore.

Galaxy Patch and Ka Ying Generation will carry the hopes of young horseman Pierre Ng, who leads the 2023/24 trainers’ championship with 52 wins.

“For our second year of training, to have two horses in the Derby is a privilege for the stable. To participate is just a very good feeling,” Ng said.

“(They are) completely different horses – Ka Ying Generation has got the win at the distance and it’s just a matter of time before he makes a very good stayer. Galaxy Patch is the wild card. We just keep testing him. 

“The last run (when second to California Spangle in the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup) was sort of the impossible mission, first time at 1400m in a Group 1, but he managed to run well, so hopefully he can do it again this weekend.

Pierre Ng has two BMW Hong Kong Derby runners. (HKJC/Alex Evers)
Pierre Ng has two BMW Hong Kong Derby runners. (HKJC/Alex Evers)

“Blake is a very good judge. Obviously, this type of horse gives a very good feeling in his trackwork, he has the strength and stride length to be a Group 1 horse and I’m pretty happy with him after his work the other day.”

Six-time Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton will search for his second BMW Hong Kong Derby score with Dennis Yip’s Massive Sovereign, who created a strong impression with his debut victory over 2000m at Sha Tin on 3 March.

“It’s not easy to do what he did (win on debut) of course. It hadn’t been done for 25 years but he’s a horse that seems to take everything in his stride and showed he was possibly able to handle it and he did,” said Purton, who won the 2015 Classic on Luger.

“He went past a lot of tired horses – horses that were hitting the wall after doing a bit of work – and if you sit out the back and do no work, it can be a bit deceiving, but he let down nicely and he’s going to have to be a little bit better again this weekend.”

Sunday’s (24 March) 10-race Sha Tin card starts with the Class 4 Furore Handicap (1200m) at 12.45pm with the BMW Hong Kong Derby scheduled to start at 4.15pm.

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