Hongkong Great could be set for overseas campaign after record-breaking win
May 9, 2021, 6:24:54 AM
Danny Shum will deem overseas targets for Hongkong Great after the lightly-raced galloper shattered Sha Tin's 1650m dirt track record on Saturday, providing Zac Purton with a timely treble (8 May).
Hongkong Great clocked 1m 36.15s on the dirt surface to break the classy Gun Pit's record of 1m 36.34s set in 2015, sailing to a commanding win in the Class 2 Carnation Handicap (1650m, dirt).
Though COVID-19 remains the most significant impediment to Shum's aspirations, he is certain that the Lookin At Lucky gelding will perform admirably regardless of where the horse goes.
“If the virus condition has improved,” Shum said, “we should look at taking the horse overseas.” “It was a good win, and the time was fast. I was shocked he broke the record; he is very talented. Zac's trip to simply maintain the pace was very impressive.”
Before arrival in Hong Kong, Hongkong Great established a stellar record on the turf, winning three G1s in Chile before revealing a love for the dirt by winning three of eight races on the soil this season.
With 18 meetings remaining in the season, Purton now leads Joao Moreira by 14 victories – 105 to 119 – in the fight for jockeys' championship honors.
The obvious simplicity with which Hongkong Great won belied the challenge of handling the horse, according to the Australian.
“He's not the best horse to mount because he's so strong-willed,” said the four-time winner. “He gets on the bit and is eager to get started. I was lucky that he wasn't under pressure, and I was able to bring him into a good groove. I believe that as time passes and he gains more racing experience and relaxes a little more, he will improve.”
Caspar Fownes' belief in Killer Bee (118lb) was validated when the Savabeel gelding raced home in a slick final sectional to beat Mighty Valor (127lb) in the Class 3 Balsamine Handicap (1200m) under Moreira.
As Moreira coaxed the best out of the flighty three-year-old, he clocked the fastest last 400m of the meeting – a blistering 21.81s – winding his way through traffic from the home-turn.
“It's great that the horse knuckled down and shows us what he has. We still think he's got a huge motor, but he's still young, inexperienced, and learning his trade,” Fownes said.
“He was naughty before the run, and he was naughty during the race.” He also has some lessons to learn from practice, so he's a horse we're looking forward to working with next year.
“He's really a work in progress; he has a lot of potential, so he'll get there – he'll be a strong horse.”
After 231 runs, Jack Wong's perseverance paid off – and drew the admiration of an admiring jockey cohort – when Francis Lui's Skyey Supreme won the Class 3 Chamomile Handicap (1650m, dirt).
“I'm pleased because it was a winner, but it's also the end of the season, and I'm at the bottom of the standings. On the other hand, I thank Francis (Lui) and the owner's willingness to give me a chance on their horse,” Wong, who now has 86 Hong Kong career wins, said.
“I got the draw (barrier three) and a good weight (113lb) today, so the conditions gave me a nice, quick travel in the race, and the horse was able to score.
“This is the longest I've waited for a winner in a season. But I'll keep doing all of the exercise, trackwork, and talking to coaches, and I'll really do as much as I can. I just get what I can and see if I can owe them a surprise.”
When Red Elysees stormed late to win the Class 4 Hydrangea Handicap (1800m) for Manfred Man, Harry Bentley's pre-race preparation yielded worthy success – and the Englishman's first Sha Tin winner.
Bentley, who is on a three-month deal in Hong Kong until the end of the season in July, was overjoyed to win his second race in his 36th outing.
“It's very cool to get on the board here, and I've had a few horses that weren't quite there for any reason, but this horse travelled nicely,” Bentley said after contributing to his Happy Valley win last month on Douglas Whyte's Vincy.
“He (Red Elysees) was still in a spot that I liked. I was present the last time he won here (7 February 2019) when Silvestre (de Sousa) was riding him. He galloped all the way down the field, and like I said, it's nice to have a champion here in Sha Tin and to keep rolling.”
Whyte and Jerry Chau, who were buzzing after trebles at Happy Valley on Wednesday (5 May), added to their impressive momentum by teaming up with First Responder to win the second portion of the Class 4 Daphne Handicap (1200m).
Chau won his 40th race of a memorable season at his first meeting since his claim was reduced to five pounds, while Whyte consolidated his place in the top-10 of the trainers' championship with a double.
Super Ten, who won the Class 3 Celosia Handicap (1400m) under Alexis Badel, was the South African's second winner of the program.
David Hall's perseverance paid off when Kung Fu Tea won the Class 5 Lotus Handicap (1400m) under Zac Purton after a stutter in the straight.
“He's still running in, and he's still doing a few things incorrectly. He hasn't had much racing experience, but hopefully he will improve some further. He's close to Shocking, but he should be able to run a little faster.
“I'm hoping there's a little more scope to go for the horse. He's been lightly raced and has had a couple of problems – mostly leg issues and a heart condition – so it's taken a long time. Let's hope he will continue to improve from here. Over the course of the ride, Zac has put in a lot of effort on the horse. He's always had a crush on him and thought he had talent.”
Purton got the season off to a flying start, teaming up with Me Tsui to win the first part of the Class 4 Daphne Handicap (1200m) with Eligere. The five-year-old son of Choisir made his Hong Kong debut after winning at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne in 2018 as conditioned by Michael Hibbs.
Jimmy Ting's persistence with Kwai Chung Elite was rewarded when the Poet's Voice gelding won his first Hong Kong race at the 24th attempt, taking the Class 5 Jasmine Handicap (1200m) under Chas Schofield's driving ride.
Karis Teetan earned his sixth victory of the season for trainer Tony Cruz when Peach Blossoms (123lb) defeated Unicornbaby (132lb) in the Class 4 Erica Handicap (1400m). Peach Blossoms, a winner at Sale Racecourse in Australia as known as Chasing Returns, had been unplaced in eight previous Hong Kong attempts.