Early Derby preps in Japan and nearly final Derby preps in Hong Kong dominated international racing during the weekend. In Australia, 2-year-olds vie for position in the rich races yet to come in the Southern Hemisphere autumn.
Sunday also saw the retirement -- amid a wild celebration by his fellow riders -- of 13-time Hong Kong champion jockey Douglas Whyte.
Here's the scorecard:
Danon Kingly posted a minor upset in Sunday's Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai for 3-year-olds, defeating the 2018 2-year-old colt champion, Admire Mars, by 1 1/4 lengths. Courageux Guerrier was four lengths farther back in third. Danon Kingly, a Deep Impact colt, completed the 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on firm turf in 1:46.8 with Keita Tosaki riding.
Danon Kingly, out of the Storm Cat mare My Goodness, won at first asking Oct. 8 at Tokyo and backed that up with a win at Nakayama in December. Sunday's effort was his third career start. Admire Mars, a son of Daiwa Major, was undefeated in his four previous starts, most recently the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Dec. 16 at Hanshin.
The race is an early test for the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun, or Japanese Derby, on May 26.
Saturday's card at Tokyo Racecourse was canceled because of snow. The program, including the Grade 3 Daily Hai Queen Cup for 3-year-old fillies, will be run Monday instead.
Manuel blasted right to the lead in Saturday's million Group 1 C. F. Orr Stakes at Caulfield and held on bravely through the final 100 meters to win by 1/2 length over the dead-heat duo of Kementari and Land of Plenty. It was a bit of an upset and gives Manuel a shot at a slot in the Aus$5 million All-Star Mile at Flemington on March 16 -- a decision for Racing Victoria officials. His only recent claim to fame was a win in the listed Kilmore Cup in November.
"He's a horse we've had so much time for," Calvin McEvoy, son of trainer Tony McEvoy, said of Manuel, a 5-year-old Commands gelding. "We came here today as the outsider but what a ride by Luke (Currie). He just got to the front and didn't have to do too much to get there and he was strong to the line," he told Racing.com.
Amongst the 2-year-old set jockeying for position in the March 23 Golden Slipper, Castelvecchio upset a promising field in Saturday's Aus$2 million Inglis Millennium at Warwick Farm, winning by a convincing 2 lengths from Accession with Dawn Passage third. The Dundeel colt, trained by Richard Litt for Ottavio Galletta, notched his second win and the trainer said the Golden Slipper might be a bit too ambitious. Winning rider Josh Parr, however, said he feels Castelvecchio won on sheer ability, not really understanding the game yet. He was last with 600 meters to run, came extremely wide into the stretch and was in full flight at the finish.
Douglas Whyte ended his record-setting Hong Kong riding Sunday career Sunday at ShaTin, without a victory but with the adulation of the fans. Whyte could do no better than a pair of second-place showings -- one that could have been a win but for some traffic issues -- before the champagne flowed.
"Of course, I'm a sportsman," the South African native said after his final weigh-out. "You'd love to ride a winner on your last day but the main thing is the fantastic ending, the good reception from the crowd."
Whyte retires with a Hong Kong career total of 1,813 wins, 894 more than reigning champion Zac Purton, total stakes money of HK$1,587,210,086.67, multiple Group 1 scores and his defining 13 consecutive premierships, from 2001 to 2013. His win strike rate over more than 22 years riding at Happy Valley and Sha Tin stands goes into the books at 14.78 percent.
On the track, Enrichment likely booked a slot in the March 17 BMW Hong Kong Derby with a win in the Class 2 Daffodil Handicap over the Derby distance of 2,000 meters. Jockey Joao Moreira said the Teofilo gelding "should get in the Derby. He deserves that. The 2,000 meters, for him, is probably the shortest he would like and I think he'd appreciate a bit farther." The win was his first in Hong Kong after three tries at shorter distances.
In Friday's trials, the world's top-rated miler, Beauty Generation, stretched his legs with an easy, 2-lengths win from Pakistan Star. Beauty Generation is idling before a run in the Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup Feb. 17 and a potential trip to Japan. "He's going well. He gave me a good feel," Purton said after riding the drill. Pakistan Star is headed for the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup at 2,000-meters on the same Feb. 17 card.