Francis Lui has laid down an ominous marker ahead of Golden Sixty’s imminent return on Sunday with a Happy Valley double crowned by Sunny Star’s spectacular victory in the Class 2 The Japan Racing Association Trophy (1650m) on Wednesday (17 November).
Lui, who will saddle Golden Sixty in the BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin this weekend, took training honours at tonight’s meeting after Party Warrior preceded Sunny Star’s driving victory.
Last entering the home straight, Sunny Star weaved his way through the field under Alexis Badel to give the Frenchman a brace and outright third in the jockeys’ championship with 17 victories, while Lui improved his tally to 13 wins.
“It was a fantastic effort from the horse. I know he’s got good ability, especially when you can get him to relax. If you can do that, he can have a very fast final section,” Badel said. “I was just lucky to come right on time, he’s got a very good heart.
“When you have momentum with him, it’s quite easy with him. Happy Valley is always very good for him. He can relax and sprint very well at the end.”
Lui said: “Very happy. He got a bad draw (barrier eight of 11) and the jockey was very patient with him and gave him a chance. He’s an honest horse and he can still improve.”
Badel also believes there is decent future for Danny Shum’s Regency Star, winner of the first section of the Class 4 Kyoto Handicap (1200m), after the Nicconi gelding’s slender victory over Spicy Grill and Happily Friends.
“It was a good performance. He’s had some bad luck with bad draws and Happy Valley can be tricky when you draw outside,” the Frenchman said. “Today, he had a good gate (barrier five), he jumped well but he’s still a bit of a baby. He’s done everything right this time and there are some positives there.”
Zac Purton matched Badel’s double but he was denied even more success when Douglas Whyte’s Astrologer caused a major boilover – starting at 133/1 – by upstaging stablemate and favourite Harmony Fire to win the Class 3 Kokura Handicap (1000m) for Keith Yeung.
“I suppose it’s that time of the year, Christmas is coming,” Whyte said. “He ran with a bit of credit last week (when ninth) and Keith jumped off and said he gave him a good feel. He’s backed up and really hit the line strongly.
“Harmony Fire deserved to win tonight. Zac gave him a perfect ride. When he headed for home, it looked like he was going to win easily, but the weight difference told and played into my other horse’s hands.”
Formerly trained by Peter and Paul Snowden, Astrologer was G3-placed in Australia before export to Hong Kong.
Manfred Man credited Purton for Compassion Spirit’s imminent rise in grade after the Supreme Class gelding lugged 133lb to snare the second section of the Class 4 Kyoto Handicap (1200m).
“It was the perfect ride,” Man said of Purton’s effort to take inside runs to prevail by half a length. “Zac did a great job. The horse goes up to Class 3 now, so we will see what happens.”
Lui’s Party Warrior was the second leg of Purton’s double, edging to victory in the third section of the Class 4 Kyoto Handicap (1200m). The son of Contributer had finished second at his first three starts, but Lui’s persistence was rewarded under a calculated ride from Purton.
Purton now leads the jockeys’ championship with 34 wins to Joao Moreira’s 27. The Brazilian struck with California Cible – another former Snowden stable trainee – in the Class 3 Nakayama Handicap (1200m) for Tony Cruz.
“It was a good win, he’s a nice horse,” Cruz said. “He had a smooth run for Joao and that makes all the difference at Happy Valley. I think I’ll keep him here because he seems to like Happy Valley.”
The victory propelled Cruz into second place on the trainers’ championship with 15 wins behind Frankie Lor with 18.
Lor’s outstanding start to the campaign continued with the impressive Fa Fa, who notched his fifth win from six starts over Happy Valley’s 1650m trip – all under Vincent Ho – to take the lead in the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge with 45 points, a lead of 12 over Sight Success (33).
Lor said the Four-Year-Old Classic Series remained a possibility for Fa Fa, a son of He’s Remarkable.
“It was a good win, but I’m still thinking about the Four-Year-Old Classic Series,” Lor said. “It depends how many points he goes up in the ratings.”
Fa Fa’s victory condemned Exceptional Nice to his sixth second placing overall and fifth in succession, without yet winning.
Caspar Fownes’ decision to back up Fast Pace after the gelding’s third placing at Sha Tin on Saturday (13 November) was vindicated when the gelding dictated from the front to land the Class 4 Hanshin Handicap (1800m) under Alfred Chan.
“He’s a tough horse and he ran very well at the weekend, being a Saturday to a Wednesday, I thought this race looked quite good for him. Most importantly, the seven-pound claim has helped tonight with Alfred riding,” Fownes said.
Michael Chang was relieved One Step Ahead was finally able to break through at his 25th start for victory in the Class 5 Fukushima Handicap (1200m) under Matthew Chadwick.
“His rating had dropped a lot, this horse is sound and healthy. It was a very weak race and today the pace was good, he had the right gate (barrier three) and carried only 114lb.”
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (21 November) with the Bank of China Race Day, featuring a G2 triple-header and the return of Golden Sixty.
Hong Kong Jockey Club Press Release