The best horse to play in the 2021 Hong Kong Derby

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

March 19th, 2021

#7 Russian Emperor was bred to be a Derby winner. This weekend he may become one – just not in the one originally envisaged.

By champion sire Galileo out of the outstanding Australian racemare Atlantic Jewel, Russian Emperor was bred with the Epsom Derby (G1) in mind and in fact started as a 6-1 shot after winning the Hampton Court S. (G3) at 1 1/4 miles.

But after finishing seventh at Epsom, Russian Emperor was sold and he is now in Hong Kong, looking like one of the better prospects for the Hong Kong Derby (2000 meters, or about 1 1/4 miles) at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Russian Emperor didn’t do much in his first two starts in Hong Kong, finishing 10th on his first race there and then ninth in the first leg of the Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile.

However, he improved immensely in the second leg, the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800 meters, or about 1 1/8 miles), staying on stoutly for second to Healthy Happy, who won after setting a slow pace in front.

Given his improvement in the Classic Cup, Russian Emperor could well be an excellent chance at an extra eighth of a mile in the Derby.

The standout horse in the first two legs has been #2 Excellent Proposal, who won the Mile before finishing fourth in the Classic Cup. In both races he finished on strongly from the rear, but there has to be a stamina doubt given that he is by Exceed and Excel out of a Pivotal mare.

Also looming large as chances are #4 Shadow Hero and #5 Tourbillon Diamond, both recent arrivals from Australia. Shadow Hero had the better record in Australia, winning the Spring Champion S. (G1) over the same trip as the Hong Kong Derby, while Tourbillon Diamond – who finished third in the Australian Derby (G1) when racing as Eric The Eel – won impressively three starts back before finishing third in the Mile and fifth in the Classic Cup.

Healthy Happy can’t be ignored either, though whether he gets an easy lead again is debatable in what looks to be an open affair.

Best Play:

2 units win/show: #7 Russian Emperor
1 unit box quinella: 2 with 4 with 5 with 7