By Andrew Hawkins
Trainer Tony Millard said the racing game was “full of swings and roundabouts” after scoring a double with Atomic Blast and Golden Sleep at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (26 April).
Millard won the opening Class 5 Gwangju Handicap (1650m) with quirky galloper Atomic Blast (123lb), partnered by Sam Clipperton.
“He’s in his division and he’s winning,” Millard said. “He’s no star but any horse that can win two races in a season has done a good job and if we can win another with him, that will be a bonus.”
However, it was his second winner – Class 3 Busan Handicap (1650m) winner Golden Sleep (107lb) – that prompted his reflection. Golden Sleep, handled by Dylan Mo, prevailed by a nose over Zac Purton-ridden Magical Beauty in a tight photo finish.
“It was nice to win like that, although obviously it isn’t nice to be on the other side,” Millard said. “On Sunday, we had three seconds and we lost one like that too, so I suppose it is racing, it is full of swings and roundabouts. This horse deserved that win though.”
Golden Sleep arrived from South Africa as a Group 1 winner, having taken the 2013 G1 Cape Guineas (1600m) at Kenilworth when named Elusive Gold and trained by Brett Crawford.
“This horse, he actually won the Guineas in South Africa by a similar margin,” Millard recalled. “He put his head out right on the line for (owner) David (Hui), before he came to Hong Kong. It’s nice for him to win tonight, as he’s just a handicap horse. Dylan rode a very good race here, I gave him very specific instructions and he carried them out well. I’m very happy with both horse and rider.”
All was not lost for Magical Beauty’s trainer Tony Cruz, though, as a masterful Joao Moreira ride on the lead saw Contribution (117lb) break his Hong Kong maiden in the Class 4 Incheon Handicap (1650m). It was a remarkable 98th individual winner for nonagenarian owner Hui Sai Fun, who recorded his first victory in October 1957.
It was one of two winners for Moreira on the night, too, the Champion Jockey later snaring the Class 3 Korea Racing Authority Trophy Handicap (1200m) on Ricky Yiu-trained Wonderful Fighter (124lb).
Purton, too, was able to hit the board earlier in the night with Young Empire (130lb) going back-to-back in the Class 4 St George’s Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m).
The HKJC Racing Club horse showed promise as a juvenile when named Age Of Empire for Richard Hannon and finally broke through last start at the 13th time of asking. Trainer Chris So admitted that he wasn’t confident the Royal Applause gelding could make it two wins in a row, but said it had been a matter of patience as he waited for the horse to develop and acclimatise in Hong Kong.
“He beat 2,000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold as a two-year-old, so he obviously had ability,” said trainer Chris So. “The races he’s been contesting here, though, they don’t compare. Those were juvenile races, Galileo Gold was a miler, and he might have been forward. In these handicap races, the young horses, the three-year-olds, they are racing the older, tougher horses all the time. When they are still learning and still acclimatising, it’s difficult for any horse. Even now, he’s only four, so he should still be getting better.
“I didn’t know if he could take that next step yet but he did it well today. Now, he will take his chance in Class 3 with a light weight and hopefully he can continue to progress.”
The final race of the night, the Class 2 Seoul Handicap (1200m), went to Caspar Fownes’ Victory Marvel (112lb). The I Am Invincible four-year-old became the third horse this season to win five races in the 2016/17 term, joining Sea Jade – ninth in the Seoul Handicap – and D B Pin.
“He’s done a great job,” Fownes said. “What more can you ask for? And he’s still getting better too. It was a great ride from Jack Wong.”
Trainer John Size continued his strong season with King Bountiful (117lb) victorious in the Class 4 Daejeon Handicap (2200m) under Matthew Chadwick. The handler now sits on 72 wins for the season, 14 ahead of nearest premiership rival John Moore.
Italian import Dr Race (121lb) also found the winners’ circle for the first time in Hong Kong, the David Ferraris trainee taking the Class 4 Daegu Handicap (1200m) courtesy of a ground-saving Derek Leung ride.
Hong Kong racing heads to Sha Tin on Sunday (30 April) for a 10-race card, headlined by the HK$20 million G1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) and the HK$3 million G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2400m).
Golden Sleep (red cap) bursts through to hold off Magical Beauty in a tight photo finish.
Photo 2, 3
Members of the HKJC Racing Club celebrate the win of Young Empire in the St George��s Challenge Cup Handicap.
Contribution��s win in the Incheon Handicap provided owner Hui Sai Fun with a 98th individual winner.