Can three-time Group One winner Exultant take out the Gold Cup?
- Exultant the one to beat in the Gold Cup
After comprehensively taking out the Group 3 Centenary Vase last start, can Exultant be beaten home in Sunday’s Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) ?
Rival trainers like to think so and have confidence in their runners but many suggest it may take a personal best from the opposition to deprive the Tony Cruz-trained six-year-old of his fourth Group 1 scalp.
A shock defeat in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase just before Christmas had everyone scratching their heads as he finished third, some 3.5 lengths behind Glory Vase.
He was sent out a white-hot favourite that day at $1.80 but it was clear as they passed the 250m mark that it wasn’t going to be his day.
Voted Hong Kong’s Stayer and Middle Distance champion for 2019, the bay gelding bounced back last start by taking out the Group 3 Centenary Vase, beating home Glorious Dragon and Doctor Geoff, while conceding both of them 9kgs in weight.
On Sunday, both minor place getters are back to challenge the champ but will be meeting him 9kgs worse at set weights.
Trainer Tony Millard has entered Glorious Dragon and Northern Superstar to take on Exultant and remains positive although at the same time realistic as well.
“If we don’t win, second place is also nice so hopefully my horse will run well,” he said.
“Exultant looks outstanding,” Millard said before correcting himself. “Actually, he’s not just an outstanding horse, he’s a champion horse.”
Glorious Dragon has done enough this preparation to earn a rating of 96, however, this is still well short of Exultant’s current rating of 129.
Northern Superstar is two starts back from a 45-week stint in the paddock after suffering an off-fore tendon injury.
Millard remains confident of a forward showing from the six-year-old gelding.
“I think Northern Superstar will run very well too”.
He’s been off for a long time but he’s coming back,” he said.
Frankie Lor will start Furore and Dark Dream in the HK$10,000,000 event but going on their current form, both look safely held.
Zac Purton remains in the saddle and has already enjoyed steering Exultant to nine of his eleven career victories.
The Teofilo gelding has a touch of class about him and he looks the winner here.