By David Morgan
Callan Murray made his first Happy Valley ride a winning one tonight, Wednesday, 24 May. The fresh-faced South African was beaming from ear to ear after landing section one of the Class 4 Kam Tin River Handicap (1200m) atop the 6.9 third pick, Master Viking (124lb), for countryman Tony Millard.
The youngster, who started his Hong Kong career with five proficient, albeit winless, rides at Sha Tin on Sunday, wasted no time this evening in breaking his duck.
With only two mounts on the eight-race card, Murray made the most of his first opportunity. Bustling the grey from gate seven, South Africa’s champion apprentice stalked the pace, kicked off the turn to lead at the 250m mark and held on from the pressing Confucius Spirit (115lb) for a neck victory.
“The horse had pace and it all suited me,” said a delighted Murray. “The track is running quick today so I had him on the speed and he just quickened up for me. He was looking for the line in the end but it came in time.”
Murray showed blissful naivety of the Happy Valley experience, returning to the winner’s arch at a gentle trot when most of his weighing room colleagues would have cantered back, arm raised and high-fiving the eager rail-side crowd. His delight, though, was apparent.
“I’m over the moon – really, really happy – and very grateful to Mr. Millard and the owners for the opportunity,” he said. “I just wanted to get that first winner out of the way and I’m glad I did.”
Millard, too, was pleased with the outcome after Master Viking had notched his fifth win for the stable – all at the course and distance – and first since he completed four in a row back in April of last year.
“He’s ridden a winner for me in South Africa, so I know the boy,” Millard said of Murray. “He’s young, he’s hungry and you’ve got to give them a chance.
“It looks like he’s got the ability but it’s early days yet; Hong Kong is Hong Kong, it’s tough here and he is very young, but as long as he carries on like this, I think he can handle it.”
Litterateur sticks to script as Gibson lands a double
Litterateur (127lb) backed up to win the night’s trophy race, the Class 3 Sauternes Cup (1650m), under Zac Purton. The five-year-old went off the 3.1 top pick after a scorching last to first charge at his last start, and knuckled down like a true pro to score this time by half a length from the Derek Leung-ridden Unicorn (130lb).
Richard Gibson’s charge raced handier than in the past, sitting a close fourth initially. The shape of the race changed midway down the backstretch, however, when Leung decided to kick around the concertinaed field. But, turning in, Purton asked for a big effort and Litterateur responded with a determined advance to pass that rival inside the final 50m.
“It was a different style of race to his last two runs,” the former champion jockey said. “I did want to ride him a little bit quieter than that, and I jumped out and dropped my hands but he grabbed the bit and wanted to be there. The way the track’s racing tonight, I didn’t want to fight him too much. He wasn’t as impressive as last time but he’s shown he can do it two ways!”
Litterateur’s win gave the in-form Gibson a double after Planet Giant’s all-the-way three and a half-length win under Leung in the opener, the Class 5 Ho Chung River Handicap (1650m).
“We’ll go 1800 metres next time with Litterateur,” he said. “He was the logical favourite in the race, we were just worried about any track bias but he was suited to the going tonight and he got his head down and did it well.
“He was logical, he’s a progressing, good horse, so I was even more pleased with Planet Giant’s win in the first – that gave me even more pleasure because it’s hard with these horses that are older and difficult to train, they have to have their day, everything has to go their way; he overcame the draw and he got a great ride. That was monumental from Derek!”
Planet Giant returned at 5.6 in notching a second win at start 25.
Three for Teetan
Jockey Karis Teetan was the night’s top rider thanks to a treble. The Mauritian ace took the Class 3 Shan Pui River Handicap (1650m) in tandem with the David Ferrais-trained 9.3 shot Magnetism. He was on the mark again in the penultimate race, the Class 3 Tai Shing Stream Handicap (1000m), aboard the Benno Yung-trained Happy Cooperation, returned at 7.9, and rounded off in the last, the Tan Shan River Handicap (1200m), with the Francis Lui-trained Convincible, the 3.3 favourite.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a really good meeting but I keep working hard; you know this place, you have to keep boxing,” he said.
“I’ve been getting a lot of rides and I’ve had a lot of seconds and thirds so it’s been frustrating – although I’m not unhappy – but it’s good to have things fall right tonight. I just appreciate all the help from everybody.”
Lui and Chad Schofield teamed up in the fourth, the Class 4 Ng Tung River Handicap (1650m), to score with Polymer Luck, a 7.3 shot.
Heavy rainfall hit the Valley during most of the day and racing commenced on going rated good to yielding but was upgraded to good after race two.
That second event, section two of the Class 4 Kam Tin River Handicap (1200m) went to the front-running Bond Elegance, a 4.4 chance, for trainer John Size and jockey Olivier Doleuze.
Callan Murray opens his Hong Kong account aboard Master Viking.
Litterateur (Zac Purton up) seals a double for trainer Richard Gibson in the Sauternes Cup Handicap.
Convincible wins the last to give jockey Karis Teetan a treble on the night.