Butterfield on course for Hong Kong Derby
Classy import will go straight to the feature if he has enough rating points
Butterfield took a stride forward on the road to the BMW Hong Kong Derby over 2,000m with a smart success in the Class 2 Azalea Handicap over 1,800m at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The race had been billed as something of a Derby trial, with six eligible runners in the field of 13, headed by the high profile trio Enjoying, Columbus County and Super Oasis.
But it was trainer Danny Shum's South American import - already a dual Group 1-winning Derby hero in Brazil when named Halston - who took the spoils and the kudos.
"The owner has nice expectations, he bought him from Brazil for nice money, not too expensive, but he's a good horse," said Shum.
"I have to see how he pulls up but I'm not sure whether or not he will already have enough rating points for the Derby. If he has, we might go straight there. But I'll talk to the owner and we'll make a decision whether or not we run in the Classic Cup next."
The chestnut, rated 84 for Sunday's test, would meet the highly regarded Hong Kong Classic Mile one-two of Golden Sixty and More Than This should he line up in the second leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Cup over 1,800m in three weeks' time.
Butterfield snared his first Hong Kong win under a positive ride from Grant van Niekerk.
The South African took a seat behind the front-running Classic Beauty, shifted out at the 400m mark and was soon in the clear.
The son of Setembro Chove was assailed on either flank close home but kept on strongly to win by half a length from the Caspar Fownes-trained Columbus County.
"I told Grant to follow the leader because there was no pace in this race. He was drawn one and he got a slow pace so he could do that," said Shum.
Van Niekerk is looking forward to future assignments with Butterfield.
"I think he has ability and, if he is a little further back in the run, it won't be a problem. He's still learning about racing in Hong Kong and I think he'll just keep getting better," said van Niekerk. - HKJC