By Declan Schuster
Joao Moreira sealed a hat-trick of wins containing plenty of promise for the future as Computer Patch (117lb) blew away his rivals in the G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) at Sha Tin on Thursday, 1 October.
“This horse gave me a very good feeling when I was aboard him last time for John Moore and his win today did not come as a surprise to me,” Moreira said.
“He’s given me that feeling all along that he has ability and it was just a matter of time until he grabbed a Group-race win, fortunately today was the day and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Moreira drove the Exceed And Excel rig straight to the front, avoiding the early collision that saw Gold Chest (114lb) edge right and Big Party (130lb) cross left, squeezing Yee Cheong Baby (113lb), Victoriam (115lb) and Wishful Thinker (133lb).
From there, Moreira hugged the rail and the talented four-year-old raced away for an easy two and three quarter-length victory, with Jolly Banner (127lb) in second and Gold Chest third, while Big Party weakened to fourth.
“I was quite surprised that no one else ended up in front of me during the race as I was able to just manage him throughout the first half of the race,” Moreira said.
“He was able to stride out freely halfway through and he quickened carrying the lightweight on his back, and he was able to produce what he’s got. I knew he was going to win.”
Computer Patch bolts in.
Computer Patch’s victory was his first for his new handler Tony Cruz and he did it at his second start for the two-time champion trainer.
“First-up he wasn’t 100 percent fit, but today he was really tuned-up and I expected him to win today. There’s no choice, he will have to go up to 1200 metres and I believe he can do it,” Cruz said.
Moreira’s running treble kicked off earlier on the card with the talented Hong Kong Classic Mile prospect Sky Field, and he followed that with a comfortable win aboard Fox Cheunger in the Class 5 Shenyang Handicap (1200m).
Cruz took a double when he sealed his 1300th Hong Kong win as a trainer two races later: Circuit Hassler strode clear in the Class 3 Tianjin Handicap (1400m) under Matthew Chadwick.
Sky Field on the Classic trail
Sky Field boosted his Hong Kong Classic Mile credentials with his second win of the term in the Class 3 Shanghai Handicap (1200m).
The talented son of Deep Field was cuddled throughout the race by Joao Moreira to score with plenty in hand – more than the official three quarters of a length – rounding up his six rivals from the rear of the field in some style.
But, while an exciting talent, the chestnut does have a few kinks to iron out, notably his mid-race manners and a sparky attitude, which sees him over-race.
“He’s still learning as you can see – it could have all gone wrong with his inexperience,” trainer Caspar Fownes said.
“Hopefully he keeps learning because he needs to start to settle down a bit more in the middle of the race if he’s going to be a top horse, but hopefully he does that with experience.”
Sky Field takes the Class 3 Shanghai Handicap.
Sky Field gave the strong impression that a step into Class 2 next time will be well within his scope, as only once did Moreira need to lift his whip.
“I’m not worried about Class 2 – he’ll probably get six points for the win which will take him to 86, which is a nice weight as he’ll go up in class but down in weight,” said Fownes, who leads the premiership with 11 wins, five clear of his closest pursuer.
“When they slackened up the pace it was very easy for him to get on the bit and he wanted to be a little bit keen and over-race but he came back to Joao in the end and he did his job nicely,” Fownes said.
“Even though he’s only won by three parts of a length it was a good effort – I’m very happy with it. He’s just going to have to learn to be a bit more tractable mid-race – he’s a horse with a big engine but he just needs to learn to start to chill, he’s a great horse for the future but obviously for this season we have to see how high we can take him – you never know,”
Three-time champion trainer Fownes has tasted Four-Year-Old Classic Series success previously, with Lucky Nine who secured the 2011 Hong Kong Classic Mile.
While Sky Field looks likely to tackle that HK$12 million contest, Fownes is less certain about going beyond that to the second and third legs of the three-race series.
“I’m not going to gut bust a horse for the sake of it,” he said. “With Lucky Nine, he was a superstar: he won the Classic Mile, ran second in the Classic Cup (1800m) and I could have gone on to the Derby (2000m) and he would have run in the first three but I backed off him and said ‘no, he’s done his job’,” said Fownes, who is now one short of his 900th Hong Kong win.
Mighty treble for Purton
Champion jockey Zac Purton sealed a treble with victory aboard Mighty Giant in the Class 2 Beijing Handicap (1400m), the galloper’s fourth win in succession.
“He’s a tough horse – he makes it hard for himself, he just likes to bowl along and he’s got one action but he loves to keep rolling and continue on with the gallop. He can run good sectionals and go on with it,” Purton said.
The Ricky Yiu-trained galloper hopped straight on the speed and from there, managed to hold his rivals at bay including the fast-finishing Not Usual Talent.
“Zac (Purton) knows him really well, the big plus is that he was first-up this season, it was a good effort. What a horse!” Yiu said.
Mighty Giant toughs it out in the nightcap.
“He spent a good time in Conghua, about three to four months, and the colour of the horse went darker, some of the horses change colour, that’s very obvious. He’s still progressing, he’s still up-and-coming,” Yiu said of the 87-rater.
Purton kicked off his treble with victory aboard debutante Everyone’s Delight in section two of the Class 4 Chengdu Handicap (1200m), before scoring aboard Angel Of My Eyes in the Class 4 Jinan Handicap (1400m).
Glory for Leung
Earlier on the card, Derek Leung kicked off a double on the Jimmy Ting-trained Pegasus Glory displayed a heap of potential to win at his second Hong Kong start, taking the opener, section one of the Class 4 Chengdu Handicap (1200m).
The four-year-old by Wandjina placed second on debut down the straight at the season’s opening fixture and today at his first attempt around a bend, returned victorious under Derek Leung.
“Derek (Leung) came back and said in the straight, when he came out he was just thinking and he looked around, that he wasn’t concentrating but then when other horses came up to him, then he knew he needed to go,” Ting said.
“It’s nice to get a winner, we supposed he’d win maybe a bit easier than today: he travelled good but he is still very green, when he got a clear run he was still looking for the other horses a bit. He needs time to mature but he’s a nice horse,” Leung said.
Leung also captured the Class 4 Nanning Handicap (1600m) with a make-all ride aboard Light My Day for trainer Dennis Yip.
London Hall bagged the Class 3 Chongqing Handicap (1800m), with Alexis Badel rallying the David Hall-trained galloper to his fifth Hong Kong win.
Hong Kong racing continues this Sunday (4 October) at Sha Tin.