03/19/2017 7:43AM

Rapper Dragon sweeps Hong Kong's Triple Crown


Rapper Dragon won the Hong Kong Derby on Sunday at Sha Tin and became the first horse to sweep the Four-Year-Old Championship Series, Hong Kong’s version of the Triple Crown.

Under a patient ride from Joao Moreira, Rapper Dragon beat Pakistan Star by 1 3/4 lengths in the $2.3 million Derby, a quarter-length more than his margin of victory over Pakistan Star in the Hong Kong Classic Cup last month. In January, Rapper Dragon won the first leg of the series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile. The three races are restricted to 4-year-olds.

John Moore, long one of Hong Kong’s top trainers, had six runners among the 14 in the Derby; five finished in the top eight, but his big horse, Rapper Dragon, clearly was the star.

Racing over 1 1/4 miles for the first time, Rapper Dragon broke on top from post 2, but settled into fourth position racing two wide around the first of the race’s two turns. Moreira found the fence at the head of the backstretch, about six furlongs from home, while Rapper Dragon raced about three lengths behind a lead pack of three.

Beauty Generation, Rapper Dragon’s stablemate, grabbed the bit and zoomed up outside Rapper Dragon with a little more than five furlongs left, Rapper Dragon initially quickening in response to the move, but Zac Purton reined in Beauty Generation before the second turn.

Meanwhile, Dinozzo, who had been well back midway down the backstretch, made a bold three-wide bid all the way to the lead on the turn, which served to spread the lead group and provide Moreira room to operate. He moved Rapper Dragon off the fence before turning into the homestretch, sent Rapper Dragon to the front a quarter-mile out, and Rapper Dragon took care of the rest. Finishing resolutely, he was never really threatened as the massive crowd roared louder and louder through the final furlong.

Poor Pakistan Star. The horse knows no other way to show his best than to fall quickly to the very back of the field and try to pass everyone in the homestretch. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan Star got a stop-and-start trip in the Derby while racing along the inside much of the way. He and jockey Sylvestre de Sousa began threading their way into contention with about three furlongs out, came between horses twice in the final quarter-mile, and, for a moment at the furlong grounds, looked like they might have a chance at the winner. But Pakistan Star changed leads about 75 meters from the finish, stopping his momentum, and the race was over.

Rapper Dragon was timed in 2:02.88 for the 2000 meters over a course rated good-to-yielding following Sunday rain. Pakistan Star finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Beauty Generation, who was a neck better than Seasons Bloom.

“They didn’t make it easy for him,” Moore told Hong Kong Jockey Club publicity, “but Joao had a lot of horse, and when he came in, he said the horse just loved the going. Joao said there was a moment or two there when he probably was in a tight position, but he extricated himself and hit the line like he usually does – really, really strongly.”

Rapper Dragon, an Australian-bred gelding by Street Boss out of Swing Dance, by Danehill Dancer, won for the seventh time in his Hong Kong career. As an encore to the Championship Series sweep, he might next try to win the Group 1 Champions Mile on May 6.