Hall, Whyte upstage big guns with Happy Valley doubles
June 4, 2021, 7:26:14 AM
Overshadowed by Caspar Fownes and John Size’s titanic battle for the trainers’ championship, David Hall and Douglas Whyte struck important blows of their own with pivotal doubles at Happy Valley on Wednesday (2 June).
Hall won his first brace since September when Red Brick Fighter pounced late under Matthew Poon to take the second leg of the Class 4 Morrison Handicap (1200m), followed by Alexis Badel's trouble-free victory on Sun Of Makfi in the Class 4 Rumsey Handicap (1650m).
The Melbourne Cup-winning trainer climbed into the top ten after building on a strong first season in 2019/20 by winning 31 races this season, putting him in seventh position in a championship led by Fownes (66) and Size (66). (65).
With neither Fownes nor Size winning this evening, Hall and Whyte happily shared the role as the program's top handlers, while brilliant Gallant Crown maintained his spectacular ascent for Tony Millard.
Millard has steered the Hallowed Crown gelding to four triumphs in his last six outings, the most recent in the Class 3 Hillier Handicap (1650m) for Poon, who completed a double on Wednesday with Zac Purton and Alexis Badel.
Millard said of the four-year-old, "He's done a wonderful job this season." “He's showing a lot of potential, and we'll just have to wait and see how he recovers from this race before deciding if he runs again.
“Matthew rode him flawlessly, and it's wonderful to watch this horse perform so well.”
Poon maintained his close relationship with Hall, who was ecstatic to record a two-timer.
“It's been a little difficult at times, but it's always good to get a double,” Hall explained. “It improves things a bit.
“If any horse deserved to win it, it was him,” Hall said of Sun Of Makfi. “He's a tiny horse, he'd demonstrated he was going to get a couple of victories on the board, but he needed to settle down and learn to relax a little bit.
“He's still not the complete package, there's not much of him, and he's still improving, but it's fantastic to have the win, and I'm certainly looking forward to next season with him.”
Hall thinks Red Brick Fighter is still capable of firing at both Happy Valley and Sha Tin.
“He still has the flexibility, and he isn't a one-trick pony,” Hall explained. “Fresh out of Conghua, 1200 meters was the perfect trip” (tonight).
Whyte, who had 44 winners last season, won the Class 5 Wing Lok Handicap (1000m) with Valiant Elegance under a skilful, searching ride by Jerry Chau before completing the double with Simply Fluke in the first division of the Class 3 Cleverly Handicap (1200m) under Badel.
“Alexis made the difference tonight — he gave him a jewel of a ride,” Whyte said following Simply Fluke's victory. “He was certainly unlucky not to finish in the top three last week, then Alexis leaped off and gave me faith that he could get back up and race again.
“He raced too well without winning, and tonight, after getting that good draw (gate two), I believed he was going to run a tremendous race, and he let down beautifully.”
Whyte was just as pleased with Valiant Elegance's triumph.
“This horse has showed me a lot at home, and sadly he had to have throat surgery, which was very successful,” Whyte explained. “He had to regain his confidence in order to realize he could breathe again.
“He's ran third in the past three or four runs and shown terrific consistency, but he needed a race like tonight to convince us that he was over the throat surgery.”
Paul O'Sullivan lauded veteran Harrier Jet for defying Father Time – and younger competition – to win the second half of the Class 4 Morrison Handicap (1200m) for Purton.
After racing in 10 races for Chris Waller in Australia – and winning three – the Dane Shadow gelding demonstrated that he had lost none of his competitive zeal by sprinting down the wire to beat Fortune Carrier by a short head in his 72nd outing in Hong Kong.
“He's done a terrific job in Hong Kong, he's been here seven years and there hasn't been a race when he hasn't put in and he's remained sound and likes the environment,” O'Sullivan said after Harrier Jet won his fifth race in the jurisdiction, bringing his earnings to HK$7.947 million.
“He's about ten years old, and he got all the favors and simply got up. We're quite happy with him. With an elderly horse like that, it's extremely fulfilling.
“It will very definitely be his final race of the season; he is owned in Beijing, and I'm not sure what they intend to do with him. It's safe to assume that he has more runs behind him than he does in front of him.
“If he came back next year, he'd have a rather quiet season.
“You can step into the box with him, and he's the sweetest horse I've ever taught. He works hard and is well, both physically and mentally.”
Amazing Rocky's easy victory in the Class 4 Jervois Handicap (1000m) was attributable to a flawless barrier (gate one) and another measured Purton ride, according to Benno Yung.
“The barrier was extremely good, and it worked out pretty well,” remarked Yung. “He'll most likely go up to Class 3 now and have a shot.”
Joao Moreira extended his lead in the jockeys' championship by riding Francis Lui's Winning Volatility to victory in the Class 4 Wellington Handicap (1800m), before Derek Leung and Chris So teamed up with Goodluck Goodluck to win the second section of the Class 3 Cleverly Handicap (1200m).
On Sunday, racing in Hong Kong resumes at Sha Tin (6 June).