The Chinese New Year Raceday on Monday (30 January) proved the domain of trainer John Moore as the handler prepared a treble with a potent mix of current and future stars on a day that produced highest turnover for the meeting on record.
In front of a crowd of 96,082, the highest attendance in the last three years, Moore’s highlight came with his trifecta in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) – Helene Paragon, Joyful Trinity and Able Friend. However, he also rose to the occasion in the traditional Chinese New Year Raceday feature, the Class 1 Chinese New Year Cup Handicap (1400m), with Invincible Dragon before adding a third win with Four-Year-Old Classic Series contender Booming Delight in the closer.
Invincible Dragon got first points on the board for the trainer in the Class 1, with Moore suggesting the rain showers that swept through Sha Tin early in the day were a big factor for the 2.9 second favourite.
“Invincible Dragon, he’s by Invincible Spirit and he produced the winner of the previous race too (Citron Spirit) so I think the progeny really like that little bit of give in the ground,” Moore said.
It didn’t all go to plan for the handler, though, as topweight and expected leader Dashing Fellow missed the start and ended up sixth on the rail under Zac Purton as Me Tsui-trained Flying Moochi carved out strong sectionals in front for 10-pound claimer Dylan Mo.
To Dashing Fellow’s outside sat his stablemate, with Invincible Dragon tracking up into the race from midfield. For jockey Sam Clipperton, the midfield trail one-off proved the perfect position from gate seven in the nine-horse field.
“I wasn’t sure where we were going to be from the barrier but it worked out well,” he said. “I followed Nash Rawiller’s horse (Lucky Year) right into the straight. I tried to hold him together for as long as possible, I actually was looking at the big screen up towards the 300m, trying to see where Racing Supernova was and I could see him peeling off my heels. So I was just trying to conserve my horse’s sprint and he was very good to the line. It was a very good win.”
Invincible Dragon’s last 400m stopped the clock in 22.49s, only bettered by Chris So-trained 2.8 favourite Racing Supernova, who ran his last section in 22.41s.
“He’s come right again after a couple of issues early,” Moore said. “And he’s come along at the right time of the year too, he’ll find his way into Group races. He’ll probably be another Joyful Trinity, though, just that pinch off the top grade.
“The Hong Kong Macau Trophy will be perfect for him, and Dashing Fellow will go there too and will try to repeat. He missed the kick and that was the end of him, he’s never been good amongst horses.”
The annual interport race, now a 1400m Class 1 to be run on 5 March, could also be the target for Racing Supernova, with So still sporting a smile after the half-length defeat under Joao Moreira.
“He ran really, really well,” So said. “How can you be sad with that? He was better ridden cold today, but that also meant that he was a little bit unlucky. We’ll keep him to handicaps and I’m sure a race will come along that suits. Maybe the Macau race.”
Booming win sees Delight enter Derby fray
Moore and Clipperton also combined to win the last race, the Class 3 Kut Cheong Handicap (1600m), with BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) prospect Booming Delight, giving both trainer and jockey a treble.
Booming Delight has raced further forward at his last two starts, now producing two wins, after racing towards the rear at his first two Hong Kong starts and running into the placings. Clipperton believes this versatility is one of the English import’s strongest assets.
“He’s an exciting prospect,” Clipperton said. “He has a lot of ability, he’s got himself into the Derby now which is good and there is a turn of foot there when you need it and he should have no problems at the trip and he’s very fit now. He’s quite versatile, you can put him there or you can switch him off. He’s a very push-button racehorse and he’s showing the credentials to suggest he will be a player in the Derby.”
Moore says the son of Fastnet Rock is likely to run again on 19 February, the same day as the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), but he will avoid his fellow four-year-old stablemates until the March feature.
“It looks like we’ll have six or seven Derby runners so I’m very happy,” said Moore. “This guy, I’m hoping to take a similar route to Victory Magic, continue keeping his confidence levels high and hopefully he can enter the race off another win. There are a couple of options, but there is a 2000m Class 2 on the same day as the Classic Cup that I think will suit him perfectly. It makes sense to keep them apart and have them all firing on the day.”
Booming Delight ended a watershed day for Clipperton after he scored his second Hong Kong treble and also partnered Hong Kong Horse of the Year Werther to a three and a quarter length sixth in the Stewards’ Cup. The three victories took the Australian rider to 23 wins for the season and equal fifth in the jockeys’ championship.
“When he first arrived here, I said I’d be supporting him,” Moore said. “He comes out of Ron Quinton’s stable, he’s a thorough gentleman, he’s well-educated and the feedback is phenomenal. He is a delight, a real asset to Hong Kong racing and his hard work is paying off.”
Elsewhere on the card, jockey Neil Callan rode an early race-to-race double, winning the Class 4 Red Packet Handicap (2000m) on Terrific Master before adding the G2 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) on Peniaphobia. Moreira also scored a brace, taking the opening Class 5 Yue Yee Handicap (1200m) on Treasure And Gold and the Class 2 Fat Choi Handicap (1000m) on emerging sprint star Mr Stunning.
Turnover reached an all-time high for the Chinese New Year Raceday, with HK$1.759 billion wagered across the 11 races. Total turnover from commingling reached HK$95.7 million, also a new record.
Hong Kong racing resumes on Thursday night at Happy Valley with an eight-race card, with the first event set for 7:15pm.
The John Moore-trained Invincible Dragon (No.5) takes the Class 1 Chinese New Year Cup (1400m) at Sha Tin Racecourse today.
Booming Delight holds off all challengers to win the last race on Chinese New Year Raceday, the Class 3 Kut Cheong Handicap (1600m).