Charity Glory was crowned the Hong Kong Airlines Million Challenge victor at Happy Valley tonight, Wednesday, 21 February, but the series winner was no match for the ascendant Ivictory in the Class 3 Blue Pool Handicap (1200m).
“I told the owner at the start of the season that the plan with Charity Glory was to win the Million Challenge,” said trainer Danny Shum, who won the competition two years ago with Speedy Longwah. “You have to have a horse with a low enough rating and he was a horse that had shown me that he had potential for this season.”
Owners Ng Sun-wah and Chan Wo-ping took the HK$650,000 winner’s cheque, their six-year-old having accrued 49 points from two wins, two seconds, a third and one fourth place at the city track since this term’s challenge kicked off in September.
With none of the gelding’s rivals for the top spot able to notch points on the nine-race card, Charity Glory’s eighth in the night’s penultimate contest was ultimately an irrelevance.
Ivictory’s performance, on the other hand, was bursting with relevance. John Size’s four-year-old made it five wins from six career starts in the 12-runner sprint, and he did so with ease.
“Very, very impressive – I didn’t touch him – he won the race with plenty left,” was jockey Joao Moreira’s assessment after the Mossman gelding cruised to a length and a half win under a hold.
The 1.9 favourite brushed off a wide draw (gate 11) and a 133lb impost to make it two from two this term.
“Every time he’s raced he’s done something impressive,” said Size. “Even in his first race, over 1000 metres, which is a tad short for him, he ran a fast final section to win the race; his first day at the races he was something different and he’s just made improvement ever since.
“He’s very straightforward and he’s got extra; he’s got the speed to keep up with a 1000-metre horse; he can throttle back off them – just what he showed us there, some of his artillery,” he continued.
“I think we can take our time, he’s only four. That win will take him nearly to the top of Class 2 now, so we’ll just pick some races for him.”
China dominates for Whyte
Born In China let loose a dominant turn-of-foot to take the night’s feature, the Class 1 Happy Valley Trophy Handicap (1200m). With mizzle falling throughout, the Francis Lui-trained seven-year-old clearly relished the hint of moisture in the turf, drawing two and a quarter lengths clear of his nine rivals.
“He’s been a bit unlucky his last couple of runs,” jockey Douglas Whyte said after the 2.9 favourite had landed his fourth win at the course and distance. “Today, when everything fell in place with the gate (three), it was just a matter of getting round smoothly and he let down like we know he can. With that moisture tonight, he lengthened that extra little bit.
“He’s just a different horse now that Francis has fixed his leg problems. They gave him six months and they’re reaping the rewards for their patience. He’s a happy horse and he’s not indicating that he’s feeling his legs now.”
Born In China’s win and the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Imperial Gallantry’s last race triumph meant that the pair tied for third place in the Hong Kong Airlines Million Challenge, splitting a HK$100,000 consolation. E-Super, unplaced behind Born In China, took the second prize of HK$250,000.
Dragon bags a bonus en route to Macau
Packing Dragon (117lb) lifted last year’s Million Challenge trophy and tonight took his all-time Happy Valley record to eight wins from 17 starts at the city venue. The tough grey fought the length of the home stretch to edge out 1.9 favourite Winner’s Way by a neck in the evening’s other Class 1, the Shan Kwong Handicap (1650m).
Apprentice Matthew Poon did the driving atop Ricky Yiu’s charge, a 7/1 chance in the field of six, who took his career earnings close to the HK$10 million mark. The Valley specialist is still on track for the Macau Hong Kong Trophy at Taipa next week.
“He only cost 170 or 180,000 dollars, New Zealand,” Yiu said. “The mare threw Ambitious Dragon so he seemed a good buy at that price and he’s done well for the owner. We only entered him tonight because it looked like being a small field and we thought he could pick up prize money – he’ll go to Macau and even though the 1500 (metres) will be short, he’s tough so he has a chance.”
Poon opened the night with a front-running win on the Richard Gibson-trained Winfull Patrol in the Class 5 over 1000m.
Pierre-Charles Boudot signed off his winter stint in Hong Kong with a victory aboard the David Ferraris-trained nine-year-old Sharp Hunter in race three. France’s former champion heads back to Europe with a respectable five wins on the board.
Trainer Caspar Fownes and jockey Zac Purton teamed to land race four with Smart Declaration; the next went to the Tony Millard-trained Sichaun Boss under Tommy Berry; Nash Rawiller was on the mark for the Shum stable aboard Sharp Sailor in race seven.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday, 25 February.