Lor and Bowman combination with Furore (NZ) win the BMW Hong Kong Derby

Asian Racing Federation countries combined to form the winning combination for the HK$18 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, March 17th, when Hong Kong trainer Frankie Lor and Sydney jockey Hugh Bowman brought home New Zealand-bred Furore (NZ) to dominate the finish of the race.

Hugh Bowman signals the win on Furore (NZ) in the BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Hugh Bowman signals the win on Furore (NZ) in the BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

The victory fulfilled Lor’s dream of becoming the first “home grown” Hong Kong trainer to land the race for 11 years.

“I cannot express my feelings,” the handler said, after claiming Hong Kong’s most prestigious local prize in only his second season with a trainers’ licence.

Lor, 53, whose father was a mafoo, grew up in Happy Valley, Hong Kong racing’s spiritual home. After 36 years advancing through the Hong Kong Jockey Club system as jockey, assistant and now trainer, he has an acute sense of what the 146-year-old feature means to the city’s racing folk.
“To have one horse to even run in the Derby, now I have won the Derby, so it is a dream come true!” he said.

Tony Cruz was the last “local” trainer to win the race prior to Sunday. He achieved that victory with Helene Mascot and Lor’s Furore emulated that horse in winning the Derby after first claiming the opening leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile, but failing in the Hong Kong Classic Cup between times.

Lor has made a rapid advance to the top tier of Hong Kong’s training ranks, and in fact saddled three of the blue riband’s four top-rated gallopers. But his Derby breakthrough came in no small part as a result of an astute ride from one of the world’s great exponents of jockeyship.

Hugh Bowman charted Furore’s path from a wide starting point in Gate 12; rolling his mount forward and slotting neatly into a handy berth one spot off the rail, all before the field of 14 had made it through the first turn.
“Although Furore drew poorly, I was confident he could do the job if I could get him in the right position,” the Australian ace said.

“I had the stablemate (Mission Tycoon), the likely leader, drawn next to me (11); I thought I could at least go with him to start with and see where we end up. I was able to get a lovely run three pairs back.”

That proved to be the perfect position for the G1-placed Australian import as Ka Ying Star and Mission Tycoon shared the lead in pedestrian style. That tempo seemed to foil the chances of favourite Waikuku (IRE), taken back from Gate 14 to sit second last under Joao Moreira.

Zac Purton, meanwhile, decided his chances on the stamina-laden Lor runner Dark Dream (GB) were being compromised.

“I was pleased when Zac pressed on with Dark Dream,” Bowman said. “It just gave me the option to get on his back, and he was one of the main dangers. He gave me a dream cart into the race and my horse was able to get the job done as he did over the mile two starts ago.”

Bowman slipstreamed Purton into the home straight, shifted out, and, with 300m to race, asked for a change of gear. Furore quickened to the lead as the two front-runners wilted and Dark Dream boxed one-paced.

The victor galloped on strongly, stopping the clock at 2m 01.30s. Waikuku (IRE) was second with Sunny Speed (GB) and Neil Callan third with the margins 1 1/4L and 1 1/4L.

It was Bowman’s second Hong Kong Derby triumph, three years after he partnered Werther (NZ).

Lor will now point Furore towards FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin on 28 April, with the FWD QEII Cup at the course and distance the likely option, although the handler is going to cover his bases.

“I think I will enter for the QEII Cup because there is plenty of time to that race next month,” he said, “but I will probably enter for the Champions Mile as well and then decide later.”