03/16/2017 2:16PM

Rapper Dragon poised to win Hong Kong's Triple Crown

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Hong Kong Jockey Club
Hong Kong Classic Mile winner Rapper Dragon will try to become the first horse to claim all three legs of Hong Kong's Triple Crown.

The legendary Hong Kong trainer John Moore has six entrants in Sunday’s $2.3 million Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin Racecourse, but all eyes will be on his Rapper Dragon, who will be favored to become the first winner of Hong Kong’s version of the Triple Crown.

Unlike in America, Hong Kong’s Triple Crown is for 4-year-olds, and the races are on turf, but, as with the American Triple Crown, variability in distance makes a three-race sweep difficult.

Rapper Dragon already has won the Hong Kong Classic Mile over about one mile and the Hong Kong Classic Cup over about 1 1/8 miles, but on Sunday, he will be asked to negotiate about 1 1/4 miles for the first time. Two horses, Floral Pegasus in 2007 and Sun Jewellery last year, had a chance to sweep the so-called Four-Year-Old Classic Series and came up short.

“To win all three legs of the series is very hard,” Moore told Hong Kong Jockey Club publicity. “We’ve seen horses go close before, but they have come up short in the Derby. But there is something about this horse.”

Rapper Dragon is one of 14 entrants in the Derby, which goes as race 8 on a 10-race card. First post is 1 a.m. Eastern, with the Derby scheduled for 4:35 a.m.

Rapper Dragon is an Australian-bred by Street Boss and out of the Danehill Dancer mare Swing Dance. He won his last three starts of the 2015-16 Hong Kong season but got off to a rocky start this season when unsound last fall. He was scratched lame in a hind leg in October and then finished fifth in a handicap race in December, but Moore had Rapper Dragon set straight for the start of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.

“He can stretch it out against his own age group, even in a good Derby like this one,” Moore said.

In both of his starts this year, he has rallied powerfully from midpack under Joao Moreira to win clear, and while Moore believes Rapper Dragon’s best trip might wind up being one mile, he believes his charge can cope with the added ground against restricted competition Sunday.

Pakistan Star could prove the main danger. Efforts to change the mercurial gelding’s last-to-first style earlier this season were apparently abandoned in the Classic Cup, where Pakistan Star dropped quickly back to last of 13 before blazing home to pass all rivals in the homestretch – save Rapper Dragon. Pakistan Star is by Shamardal, and the added ground should not blunt his finish. Perhaps he gets there Sunday, leaving Hong Kong’s crown unclaimed again.