By Andrew Hawkins
Young South African jockey Callan Murray gained a dream result at just his third meeting in Hong Kong, scoring his first Sha Tin win in style with a shock victory on 88/1 rank outsider Lucky Year in the G3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m) on Sunday (28 May).
“Unbelievable!” Murray exclaimed after Danny Shum-trained Lucky Year (116lb) poked through to hold off a wall of challengers, led by John Size pair D B Pin (115lb) and Thewizardofoz (128lb). “I can’t believe it, how exciting is this? It’s crazy. I didn’t expect it so soon, but I’m thrilled – what a way to break through at Sha Tin. I’ve been very fortunate.
“You always hope that you can make an impression quickly, you’ve got it in the back of your head you want to do well, but I didn’t think it could be like this. Hopefully it gives me a bit of momentum going forward.”
Murray pushed Lucky Year into a handy position, eventually settling second outside the leader Fabulous One, who set a relatively slow tempo in front. While the winner looked under siege at the 200m, he fought on gamely, racing clear for a three-quarter length success in a time of 1m 09.27s.
“Danny told me to have him midfield but they went so slow, they were really dragging it back throughout, so I ended up sitting handier,” Murray said. “I think he seemed to really travel well, and I knew I had plenty underneath me turning in. I thought he could be around the mark but wow, he really found.
“He came in under the radar, he’s an honest horse and I’d been told that on his times, he could match it with any other horse in the race.”
Murray admitted there was some concern that he would miss the ride because he would struggle to get down to the horse’s allotted weight of 115lb. In the end, he tipped the scales one pound over at 116lb.
“I thought I might have to forego the ride, not getting down to 115, but they let me ride 116,” Murray said. “It was hard work to get that weight down but I’m absolutely rapt, I’m so happy I did it. This is such a great result.”
Shum was full of praise for Murray and predicted a fruitful Hong Kong career for the 20-year-old Johannesburg native.
“I rang a few jockeys asking them to ride this horse, but none of them wanted to ride him,” Shum said. “Then I came across Callan. He worked hard to get his weight down and he really wanted the chance. I thought he would be a good fit.
“He’s a very polite kid, he’s got talent and I would be happy to use him on more of my horses. I could see him being here for a long time to come.”
It was Shum’s first win in the Sha Tin Vase and his second Group victory of the season, having won the G3 Centenary Vase (1800m) with Supreme Profit in February. The handler believes Lucky Year is a horse that needs everything to fall into place on the right day.
“This horse just has to get things his own way,” Shum said. “He needs a low weight, he needs a slow or even pace, and even then he needs luck in running. He got all that today. At set weights, he just does a couple of things wrong and he might not be up to some of his rivals.”
Shum had suggested earlier in the season that overseas targets could be on Lucky Year’s agenda, but he now believes that the Holy Roman Emperor five-year-old will remain in Hong Kong for the time being.
“We had thought maybe we could take him to the Korea Sprint, I’m hoping to send Circuit Land to the Korea Cup, but I think we’ll just keep him in Hong Kong,” he said. “Hopefully he can get into some of the sprint handicaps with a light weight. Maybe we will run him in the (G3) Premier Cup over 1400m next.”
Size’s D B Pin was valiant at his first start against stakes company. The current leader in the race to be named the season’s Most Improved Horse, the Darci Brahma four-year-old continued his march up the ratings with his second placing.
“He tried hard, but he was a long way back and the speed just didn’t suit,” said jockey Silvestre de Sousa. “He will be even better next season.”
Stablemate Thewizardofoz produced the fastest last 400m (22.00s) and last 800m (44.71s) to charge into third, with rider Chad Schofield saying the run was full of merit: “He ran really well. There was just no speed but he was on the outside, able to fly into the race and he was strong to the line.”
John Moore-trained Magic Legend (113lb), sent out a 2.7 favourite, finished fourth, beaten only a length. Jockey Karis Teetan also lamented the tempo, saying the three-year-old was inconvenienced by a pace that continued to slacken through the middle stages.
“The leader (Fabulous One) went so slow and kept slowing down,” Teetan said. “I didn’t want to take him on early because I know how fast he can be, he’s much faster than my horse, but it kept coming back into my face and there wasn’t much I could do. He wasn’t disgraced and I think he’ll be a sprinter to watch next season.”
The Sha Tin Vase was one of two Group races on the card, with the feature, the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m), going to reigning Horse of the Year Werther.
Photo 1, 2, 3
The Danny Shum-trained Lucky Year (No.6), ridden by Callan Murray, takes the G3 Sha Tin Vase (1200m) at Sha Tin Racecourse today.
Happy connections of Lucky Year celebrate their victory in the winners�� circle.
Photo 5, 6, 7
The Hon Martin Liao, Steward of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, presents the Sha Tin Vase trophy and silver dishes to Lucky Year��s Owner Cheung Pui Chu, trainer Danny Shum and jockey Callan Murray.
All smile for a group photo at the Sha Tin Vase presentation ceremony.