By David Morgan
Magic Legend is hurtling towards an international test in next month’s HK$14 million Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) after maintaining a perfect Hong Kong record with a battling victory in this afternoon’s (17 April) Class 2 Nam Long Shan Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin.
Trainer John Moore was brimming with enthusiasm after his burgeoning three-year-old snared a fourth win on the bounce under Douglas Whyte.
“He’ll take his place in the Group 1 on 7 May and Dougie will ride him,” Moore said. “Four straight – not many horses can do it and he was taking on good horses there. Strathmore was third in the Group 1 last year – that field today was pretty smart. He’s a promising three-year-old and there’s more to come.”
The Red Element gelding hogged the rail behind the pace-setting House Of Fun (117lb), and, when that rival rolled out at the top of the stretch, Whyte took advantage. The Australian import quickened into contention, battled to the lead inside the 150m, fended off stablemate Pablosky (119lb) and repelled runner-up Strathmore’s (131lb) late thrust to score by half a length in a time of 1m 08.64s.
“He showed there that he’s not a one-trick pony, he had to do it differently today,” Moore continued, “he’s shown that he doesn’t have to lead, he can sit and just come from off the speed; he still got to the line with quite a weight on his back (127lb). House Of Fun, with that weight swing from last time, went out to test him, he wasn’t allowed to have his own way in front this time.”
Whyte was delighted with Magic Legend. The bay only debuted at Sha Tin in February off a mark of 71 and stepped out for today’s test rated 99.
“There was nowhere to hide today,” the former champion said of the 2.8 favourite. “House Of Fun, I thought, was always going to lead me up with the weight swing, but I was happy to let him go. He’s not one-dimensional, this horse, and when the gap presented itself he showed a bit of tenacity and dug down deep.”
Moore put the gelding’s progress down to some tender and patient handling at home. Magic Legend won two from five pre-import when in the care of the trainer’s brother, Gary Moore, but was a difficult individual to deal with.
“When he came out of Australia with all his bad habits it took us a while to get him right but they seem to be all ironed out,” he said. “He just needed TLC (tender, loving care) and now his temperament has improved – we married him up with the right mafoo, which we’re able to do in Hong Kong, he has one groom the whole time and I’ve spent a lot of time in the box with him just getting him comfortable.
“He’s improved out of sight. We can get shoes on him now; it was very hard to get a bit in his mouth and now he doesn't need a bit in his mouth full-time. Vincent, my European riding boy, he rides him every morning and he’s done a great job.
“The horse is in no-man’s land, really – he’ll be rated 105 or 106 – so let him take his chance in the big sprint!” Moore added.
Griffins off and running
Moore secured a three-timer and was on the mark early doors in the season’s first Griffin race, the Cheung Lin Shan Plate. The 1000m contest opened the afternoon’s action and it was Amusing City (120lb), the only two-year-old in the six-runner field, who edged the verdict.
The Sebring gelding, ridden by Sam Clipperton and sporting blinkers on debut, held off the Richard Gibson-trained Lucky Master (129lb) by a short-head in a time of 57.17s.
“That’s a good result, he was just the fittest of the bunch looking at them walking around the paddock, and he was getting the pull in the weights – he’s never missed a day’s work,” Moore said.
“He’s one for next season, definitely – he’d be a miler,” he continued. “He’s immature, of course, and you could see he just tried to throw the towel in just past mid-race; he was reluctant, his tongue’s all over; he had the blinkers on because he can be a little bit funny in the mornings but he’s beaten the three-year-olds, so there is a future for him.”
Moore’s Sunny Way wrapped up proceedings with victory in the last, the Class 3 Siu Ma Shan Handicap (1400m), under Zac Purton. The jockey landed a brace after scoring aboard Lucky Guy for trainer Dennis Yip in race seven, the Class 3 Mount Collinson Handicap (1200m).
Poon doubles up
Matthew Poon rode his first Hong Kong double today. The 10lb claimer was back in action for the first time since sustaining an injury at his local debut three weeks ago. After scoring an easy victory on the David Ferraris-trained London City in race four, the Class 4 Ma Kong Shan Handicap (1200m), the apprentice was on the mark in the next, the Class 4 Mount Butler Handicap (1400m). The latter was for his boss, David Hall, atop Happy And Healthy.
“It’s great for Matthew, he had a good day on his first day with a winner, albeit cut short, and to bounce straight back and have a couple of winners already, it’s very exciting for him,” Hall said.
“A 10lb claim is important, as we’ve seen today. The example of his two wins, one from up the front on a horse that isn't highly-rated, and one from back in the field, which was most important and significant for everybody, I think, to see him ride in that style as well.”
While Poon was scooting clear in race four, three jockeys, Karis Teetan, Vincent Ho and Nash Rawiller, fell from their mounts in an incident early in the home straight. Rawiller was taken to hospital with a dislocated right shoulder and a hairline fracture to his right ankle, while Ho was stood down for precautionary observation and Teetan was cleared to continue.
Teetan showed no ill effects from his spill as he drove the Michael Chang-trained Razor Quest to victory in race nine, the Class 3 Pottinger Peak Handicap (1600m).
Hong Kong International Sale graduate Gorgeous Again landed a hat-trick with a comfortable success in race three, the Class 4 High West Handicap (1800m), under Derek Leung. Danny Shum’s charge is now three from 12. Leung snared a double when triumphant in tandem with the Benno Yung-trained Thor The Greatest in race six, the Class 3 Hong Kong Lions Cup Handicap (1200m).
Earlier, Neil Callan ended a five-meeting winless run. The Irishman notched his 32nd success of the campaign aboard top-weight Amazing Always (133lb) in race two, the Class 5 D’Aguilar Peak Handicap (1400m), to give Ferraris the first leg of a double.
Hong Kong racing resumes on Thursday, 20 April at Happy Valley with the first race at 7.15pm.
Magic Legend wins the Class 2 Nam Long Shan Handicap to earn a tilt at the G1 Chairman��s Sprint Prize.
Amusing City takes the season��s first Griffin race under Sam Clipperton.
Apprentice Matthew Poon returns after notching his first Hong Kong double.