Waikuku Passes Distance Test in Derby Trial

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Waikuku (blaze) kicks clear at Sha Tin | HKJC photo

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Prior to winning last year's BMW Hong Kong Derby, Ping Hai Star (NZ) (Nom du Jeu {NZ}) had questions to answer surrounding his ability to stay the 2000m trip. Waikuku (Ire) (Harbour Watch {Ire}) had done little wrong since his import into Hong Kong from the John Oxx yard, with three wins from four starts, but Saturday's Class 2 Lion City H. over a metric nine furlongs would serve as the 4-year-old's first appearance past 1400 metres.

Despite a riverside draw and having to spot his rivals between nine and 23 pounds as the 133-pound top weight, Waikuku not only proved he could see out the distance, but may well have stamped himself the Derby favourite.

With the speed very much on up front, Joao Moreira had no choice but to ease back through the pack and the duo settled last but two for the run down the back. Allowed to creep a little closer while following in the slipstream of Sunny Speed (GB) (Havana Gold {Ire}) on the circle, Waikuku switched out widest, kicked hard to lead entering the final 150m and was in hand late en route to a 1 1/2-length success as the $2.50 chalk (3-2) (video). He covered his final half-mile in a race-fastest :46.66. Stablemate and Derby hope Enrichment (Aus) (Teofilo {Ire}) was more one-paced back in third, while Sunny Speed could still press on to the big race after a much-improved fourth on his second Hong Kong appearance.

Whereas trainer John Size was happy to allow Ping Hai Star to step up to the Derby from a 1400m race, he thought it was imperative to give Waikuku this run.

“He was always going [to the Derby, but [this race] had to be part of his preparation otherwise he hadn't had any practice at the tempo,” Size told HKJC's David Morgan. “That's what you're hoping for. In the 1400-metre races, he's been running time….so let's go up in distance and see if he's got the stamina to finish it off.”

The Australian conditioner was also pleased with the performance of Enrichment.

“Enrichment, he's run another dour race,” Size said. “He's obviously going to appreciate the 2000 metres and he can race handily, so that will help him a lot. I think they've both got chances of getting prize money.”

A €33,000 purchase out of the 2016 Tattersalls Ireland yearling sale, Waikuku made two appearances for Oxx, including a victorious debut at Leopardstown last July.

European export Akeed Mofeed (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) parlayed a victory in the same Class 2 as a steppingstone to Derby success in 2013.

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