Flaming Rabbit Bounces Back With Front-Running Demolition

March 31, 2024

Flaming Rabbit and Lyle Hewitson are not for catching. (HKJC Photo)

Lui keeps championship pressure on

By Declan Schuster

HAPPY VALLEY—Lyle Hewitson has always been a superb judge of pace and the South African produced a brilliant front-running ride aboard Flaming Rabbit (126lb) to win the HK$3.12 million Class 2 United Alumni Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday afternoon (31 March). 

Outwitting six rivals aboard the Time Test galloper in a time of 1m 35.15s (25.61, 23.88, 22.78, 22.88), Hewitson netted his 27th victory this term after finding an untroubled lead to prevail over The Golden Scenery (135lb) and 1.5 favourite Mugen (131lb).  

“In his first season he used to just win a length or two at the start and be able to take control of the race a little bit more, whereas more recently he’s been coming out on terms with them and there’s a little bit more pressure.

“Getting to the mile and him jumping like he used to allow me to control the first two furlongs and then I was gradually able to keep picking up,” Hewitson said. 

Victory came by a runaway length and a quarter. It is Hewitson’s first in tandem with trainer Douglas Whyte this season, snapping a lengthy run of outs before today.

“It’s been a long time between drinks. He’s been one of my main go-to jockeys (20 wins together in 2021/22) and I’ve been a great supporter of his – we have no issues, he’s a friend of mine. It’s just circumstances and Hong Kong being Hong Kong. We just haven’t had the luck. I’m glad the monkey is off both of our backs,” Whyte said. 

Whyte had hoped Flaming Rabbit, who previously won last July, was able to feature in last month’s QAT G2 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup (1600m) at Al Rayyan. 

“I had this horse penned in to go to Qatar and his form just wasn’t where it was today. He’s always had it but he’s a colt and he’s just been a little bit awkward to deal with. Suppose we take today’s run, if he had run that race in Qatar, he would have been in the first three,” Whyte said. 

Whyte labelled the HK$4.2 million G3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin on 23 June as a potential long-range target for Flaming Rabbit, who won Group 3 races in Germany and Great Britain prior to import. 

Lui keeps championship pressure on

Francis Lui bagged a double to get within eight wins of championship-leading trainer Pierre Ng, who later pushed the margin back out to nine with a win of his own as Frantanck landed the Class 3 CW Chu And Wu Yee Sun Alumni Handicap (1600m). 

Trailing his former assistant 45-54, Lui first prevailed with Lucky Gold in the Class 4 CUHK Alumni Cup Handicap (1400m) with jockey Jerry Chau before Superb Kid powered clear under Zac Purton in the Class 3 Shaw Alumni Handicap (1400m), providing the in-form trainer with his eighth win through March.  

Victory was Purton’s second today after Young Horizon, who won the Class 5 New Asia Alumni Handicap (1400m) for trainer David Hayes and the HKJC Racing Club Limited. 

Chau capped a double of his own as James Tak nailed the Class 3 Morningside And S.H. Ho Alumni Handicap (1200m). The Headwater gelding has three wins from six starts for trainer Benno Yung. 

“He’s a very nice horse. He’s improved every race and it’s easy to train him in the mornings. He is such a nice, settled horse in trackwork and he shows his talent in races. I think he’ll keep improving,” Chau said.

Derek Leung is all smiles after Voyage Samurai’s triumph. (HKJC Photo)
Derek Leung is all smiles after Voyage Samurai’s triumph. (HKJC Photo)

The emerging Voyage Samurai now faces a rise in grade after returning a second victory at only his third start in the Class 4 Graduate School Alumni Handicap (1400m). The four-year-old led throughout for jockey Derek Leung and trainer Frankie Lor. 

“He’s still green. I think at the end of this season or next season that he will be a much better horse,” Leung said. 

Chris So savoured a double. Smart Leader scored in the Class 5 Chung Chi Alumni Handicap (1200m) under Keagan De Melo before Prosecco prevailed for the first time in the Class 4 Faculty Of Education Alumni Handicap (1000m) under jockey Karis Teetan. 

“It’s nice to get the win out of the way with him (Smart Leader). I’m truly grateful to Chris and his team,” De Melo said.  

Apprentice Ellis Wong moved to 11 wins for the season, scoring aboard Phoenix Light, who took the Class 4 Lee Woo Sing Alumni Handicap (1200m) for Dennis Yip. 

Hong Kong racing continues on Wednesday night (3 April) at Sha Tin.

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