It may have been just a Class 4 sprint at a routine midweek AW meeting, but Silvestre de Sousa’s success aboard Winning Supreme at Sha Tin tonight (Wednesday 19 December) added at least one telling statistic to a tale that could have several notable chapters still to run.
Hong Kong regulars are well aware that de Sousa is a three time-champion in the United Kingdom and that he beat some of the world’s best in the IJC at Happy Valley two weeks ago.
Glorious Forever’s thrilling all-the-way success in the Hong Kong Cup added a first HKIR Group 1 string to the Brazilian’s bow, but Winning Supreme’s freewheeling success in the Victoria Park Handicap (1200m) also revealed two more notable facts.
De Sousa has ridden for every one of Hong Kong’s 21 active trainers since his four-month contract began just over six weeks ago – a remarkable fact in itself – and this was his first success from just two rides for Me Tsui this term.
However, that statistic pales into insignificance when you consider that de Sousa’s eleven Hong Kong winners since the first Sunday in November have collected almost as much prize money as the 176 winners he partnered while travelling the length and breadth of Britain to capture his latest title.
Tsui described de Sousa as “very strong and talented” before adding that Winning Supreme, unlike most front-running sprinters, tends to do best when drawn away from the inside.
He added: “He can get squeezed when he is drawn low but when he starts from the middle or higher he can build his speed and that suits him well.”
Meanwhile, de Sousa is “absolutely delighted” with the way things are going even though he is heading into a solo Christmas now his wife Victoria and baby son Max have headed home to Newmarket.
He said: “They had a great time but they’ve flown home and I’ll be working over Christmas. I feel as if I’m still learning with the horses here – and you can’t just expect to get on all the favourites. – but I couldn’t have wished for a better start.
“I am aware of the statistics. I think I rode for almost 60 different trainers in the UK this year and it’s unbelievable to think I’ve almost matched a year’s work in Britain with eleven winners in less than seven weeks here!”
Conghua preparation helps Gunnison score in style
John Size’s ability to coax improvement from horses prepared at Conghua has been one of the features of his season so far and Gunnison’s runaway success in the Penfold Park Handicap (1200m) was a striking example of his new method.
Gunnison lined up for the Class 2 feature after six consecutive defeats from ratings in the low 90’s but a spell at the Jockey Club’s new base saw the diminutive chestnut return with a slightly increased body weight and a markedly improved performance.
The pace was predictably fast – producing a final time only just outside the track record – and with Joao Moreira aboard for the first time since his sole previous Hong Kong win in May Gunnison stormed four lengths clear of Perpetual Treasure.
Size and Moreira combined again in the closing Hong Kong Park Handicap (1200m) and the effect was equally devastating.
Like Gunnison, Raging Blitzkrieg (132lb) had been struggling to defy the handicapper for quite a while, but with Moreira aboard for the first time this season he sealed a treble for his rider and made an open contest look very one sided as he stormed clear of Goldie Flanker (114lb).
There was never any question of a wide margin at the end of race five and Alexis Badel was a relived man after Danny Shum’s Golden Effort (121lb) found just enough to hold on by a short head from the fast-finishing Joyful Contender (122lb).
Badel was recording his sixth success of the season and is very satisfied with his progress.
“I have been a beaten in some very close finishes – including two or three by a nose,” he said. “It would have been tough to lose that one tonight but things are going great and I’m very happy.”
Blanco breaks duck as O’Sullivan looks to up the pace
Paul O’Sullivan always suspected he would make a slow start this season but the booking of Moreira for Mi Blanco in race one worked out perfectly as the five-year-old relished a strong pace to break his duck at the nineteenth attempt.
O’Sullivan reports that he has “a stack of new horses ready to go” and is set to be much busier than normal at morning trials in the next week or two.
“I could have ten unraced PPG’s at the next sets of trials and one or two of them look alright, but the slow start was always going to happen this year and we’ll pick up now,” he said.
Mi Blanco was prepared at Sha Tin but Conghua also remains a central part in O’Sullivan’s plans.
“If we use Conghua cleverly it will be a huge help,” he added. “Apart from its beauty, its functionality is second to none and by preparing horses there when the tracks here are closed we’ll be able to get going much earlier.”
Michael Chang started the evening tied with O’Sullivan on three winners and ended the evening level with the Kiwi on four after Star Superior (131lb) saluted at almost 17-1 in race two.
Karis Teetan climbed aboard the Reward For Effort gelding for the first time in just over two years and the Mauritian’s dynamic style paid dividends as he mastered the Moreira-ridden Rochford (121lb) late on.
Good Fit proved a fine servant to the Chang stable until joining Frankie Lor last season and continued to pay his way with his seventh Hong Kong success in race three.
Teetan was in the plate again and Lor felt the fact that the AW track was helping those ridden from off the pace more than usual played a key part in the success.
Zilong’s win in race six provided another example of how a change of stable can help a horse return to peak form.
The five-year-old had shown promise without winning on several occasions when trained by O’Sullivan but got off the mark on just his second run for Peter Ho with a strong-galloping performance under Dylan Mo.