By Andrew Hawkins
Unheralded Midnight Rattler, a bargain buy as a yearling, struck a blow against this season’s four-year-old crop in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Community Trophy Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (23 April), with trainer John Moore believing that his light impost of 114 pounds was the crucial factor that allowed his horse to claim a maiden Class 1 victory.
Midnight Rattler (114lb) was under heavy riding from jockey Vincent Ho on the turn, but the eye-catching black gelding charged between runners late to score a nose victory over Tony Cruz-trained California Whip (119lb), with a further short head back to Danny Shum’s Lucky Year (123lb) in third. Moore’s second runner, People’s Knight (116lb), finished a half-length behind the winner in fourth, with favourite Western Express (132lb) a lacklustre fifth, although beaten only a length and three-quarters.
“That was really playing the handicapping game there and that was a perfect example of the pull in weights over the last 50 metres,” Moore said after his five-year-old stopped the clock in a time of 1m 21.87s. “It looked as though People’s Knight was going to go on and win by a neck or so, but as Vincent said, Midnight Rattler still had something in the tank when he did get him between horses. He was under pressure on the turn but he really fights, that’s him.
“Today, it looked for most of the straight like he’d run midfield, but he dug in and really stuck his neck out. That’s the weight pull, that’s the 114 pounds, he’s never carried so light a weight. That is honesty, he is a model of consistency. He’s a Class 2 horse who has never been beaten far but the light weight allowed him to get home.”
Midnight Rattler has now built a record of four wins from 19 starts since arriving in Hong Kong, having won one of his two starts in Australia when trained by Moore’s brother Gary.
“He was a yearling bought for AUD$5,000 (HKD$29,000),” Moore recalled, the son of Clang beginning his career with small Brisbane trainer Jan Aitkenhead. “We bought him out of a trial he won at Warwick Farm, (Gary’s son) James bought him for the owner Jason Tam, but then Gary ran him in Australia, he ran second before winning in Sydney.
“Gary said he better come to you in Hong Kong, and he has proven to be right. Now I’ve got a Class 1 winner!”
Moore later made it a double when Happy Meteor managed to make it two wins in three starts, both times with new apprentice Matthew Poon in the saddle, as he took the Class 3 Nurturing Artistic Talent Handicap (1200m).
“The inside gate was the winning factor there,” Moore said. “He was able to jump out and run in fairly moderate sectionals. The track was sealed today, too, and that can make it hard to make up ground. But I don’t think he could have done the job if he didn’t have Matthew’s claim, he’s hit the ground running and that 10 pounds can make all the difference.”
“We always knew Matthew would have great potential in Hong Kong for the simple reason that he was going on to be leading jockey in South Australia. When he came up here, he arrived with a lot of talent and he’s just proving out there. The 10 pounds – what a gift! He’s using that to full advantage, as are trainers like myself – when he’s available though, he’s very busy and very much in demand! I hope I can use him on more of my horses that are high up in the handicaps.”
Happy Meteor (123lb) was the second of two winners for Poon, having taken the opening Class 5 Beyond Arts Appreciation Handicap (1200m) on Jimson The Famous (118lb). Dennis Yip’s galloper scored his first win in 24 starts under the claimer, racing clear for a two and three-quarter length success.
Rising star Nothingilikemore remains unbeaten
Next season’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series beckons for exciting galloper Nothingilikemore, who kept his perfect record after winning his fourth race in a row in the day’s closer, the Class 2 The Power Of Music Handicap (1400m).
John Size’s three-year-old raced clear at the top of the straight and held a margin of a length and a quarter at the finish in a time of 1m 21.97s.
“I’m pretty pleased with that effort,” Size said. “That’s a tough job, he’s had to carry a bit of weight and it’s been a bit tougher today but he’s still got it done. He had to do a little bit of work early, in the first 300m, he didn’t look too comfortable. He still had energy to kick strongly when he straightened up and he held them off easily enough.
“I haven’t got a good guide on the track condition as there were only two races on the circle, but there should be some effect with the persistent rain. So he’s had things a bit different here and he’s still managed to win.
However, Size said that it might be the last time Nothingilikemore races this season, with the Husson gelding set to be aimed towards next term’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series, which begins with the Hong Kong Classic Mile in January.
“I will have a look at him but that might be enough for him,” Size said. “I had waited specifically for this race because of the 90 to 70 conditions, he did take the last race quite hard but he had plenty of time to get over that, he had a couple of trials and he was looking OK so we pushed on. He’s getting a bit high in the ratings now for where he is at, though, so I can’t promise he’ll go back to the races again this season.”
Nothingilikemore (132lb) provided Joao Moreira with the second leg of a brace after he earlier won on Caspar Fownes’ Imperial Seal (130lb) in the Class 4 Sports For All Handicap (1650m).
“It’s been a great job from the horse this season,” Fownes said. “That’s three wins from him now this season, and for a horse with a few quirks, he’s done well. He only won by a head so he might still remain in the class, and maybe he can make it four.”
Fownes later added the Class 3 Arts In The Community Handicap (1800m) with Vanilla, who has now won three races in succession. Vanilla (131lb) made it seven wins on the dirt after Zac Purton guided the Host gelding to a length and a half success in course record time of 1m 47.08s.
“He’s now got the class record in both 3 and 4 over 1800m, and he broke the course record by almost half a second,” said the handler. “He needs a few things to suit as an older horse, but he loves that surface. Today was a little bit sticky but he came through no worries. He’s done his job for the season now.”
Purton was another jockey to snare a two-timer, also taking the Class 3 Cultural Legacy Handicap (1000m) on Benno Yung-trained Fortune Bo Bo (120lb).
Racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night (26 April) for an eight-race card, ahead of the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup meeting at Sha Tin next Sunday (30 April).
Midnight Rattler (Vincent Ho) just defeats California Whip (Matthew Chadwick) and Lucky Year (Matthew Poon) to win the Class 1 Hong Kong Jockey Club Community Trophy Handicap (1400m).
Matthew Poon just gets enough out of John Moore-trained Happy Meteor to win the Class 3 Nurturing Artistic Talent Handicap (1200m).
John Size-trained Nothingilikemore, under Joao Moreira, remains unbeaten from four starts in the Class 2 The Power Of Music Handicap (1400m).
Caspar Fownes�� Vanilla records his third win in a row under Zac Purton in the Class 3 Arts In The Community Handicap (1800m).