Eagle Way’s swift swoop grabbed the Group 3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) on Wednesday night (10 January) and denied The Golden Age a Happy Valley hat-trick.
The talented five-year-old delivered a decisive home straight spurt that carried jockey Zac Purton to a three-quarter-length score in a time of 1m 50.14s – his final 400m was the fastest of all at 22.12s.
Trainer John Moore, absent tonight, has nursed the More Than Ready gelding back from a lung infection that clouded preparations into December’s Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m), in which the chestnut finished eighth.
“I galloped him recently and he gave me a good feel – he was clean in his wind and I said to John he was going well, so it was no surprise to see him come out and do that tonight,” said Purton, a first-time race partner this evening.
Eagle Way won the 2016 Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) pre-import and his form in the higher grades meant that the galloper shouldered 133lb to land Happy Valley’s only Pattern race.
“Carrying top-weight in a Group 3 race in Hong Kong is extremely hard to do, so I had that in the back of my mind but he jumped well, we had a lovely run and he showed a really good turn-of-foot,” Purton said of the 9.1 chance, successful in last season’s Group 3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) at Sha Tin.
Moore has won the January Cup four times in the past six seasons. Eagle Way follows Harbour Master (2017), Same World (2014) and subsequent Group 1 winner Military Attack (2013).
The Tony Cruz-trained The Golden Age (118lb) remains on track for the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) after failing honourably to become the first four-year-old winner of the race since 1999. The front-runner had made all to win his previous two races at the track but was collared late to finish second this time.
“He felt like the winner turning in and he kept on well but Eagle Way has Group 1 form and he showed that class,” said jockey Matthew Chadwick.
The John Size-trained Dinozzo (123lb) was a further neck third under Alexis Badel.
The French rider was on the mark one race later, driving 10/1 hope Winning Faith to a significant victory in the seventh contest for trainer Danny Shum. The Class 3 Cleveland Handicap (1650m) will go down in the record books as the former jockey’s 500th score as a trainer.
Shum attributed his achievement to the love of a beautiful woman.
“I try very hard myself and I have a beautiful, helpful and supportive wife, and a family and stable staff that help me a lot,” he said.
Champion trainer John Size earned a double. The Brett Prebble-ridden Money Boy (8.6) took the Class 3 over 1000m, while the Class 2 1200m finale went to Perpetual Joyance (6.6) under Olivier Doleuze.
Neil Callan teamed with old ally Ricky Yiu to take race three, the Class 4 Great George Handicap (1200m), with Spring Win, a 3/1 shot.
Champion jockey Joao Moreira snared a treble, kicking off with an early brace thanks to the Paul O’Sullivan-trained 4.1 chance Actuariat in the Class 5 opener over 1000m and the 2.9 favourite Exceptional Desire in the second race, a Class 4 1200m event. The latter was trainer Chris So’s first win since the same rider guided Fairy Twins to victory at the track on 6 December.
Moreira completed his treble with a win of significance aboard Contribution.
History was made in race four, the Class 4 Kingston Handicap (1650m), when Hui Sai Fun became the first owner to reach 100 wins in Hong Kong. Moreira drove the widely-respected nonagenarian’s Contribution (124lb) to a neck victory over the fast-closing Good Choice Ahead (115lb) and spark long-awaited celebrations.
Hui had been on the 99 mark since 16 July – the final day of last season – when Calculation carried his familiar red, white and blue striped silks to within one win of a ground-breaking century. The owner was not in attendance tonight but that did not dampen trainer Tony Cruz’s elation.
“I’m so happy – to accomplish the 100th win, it’s a goal achieved that has made everybody happy,” Cruz said after welcoming the 2.9 favourite. “I’m proud of my team and Joao Moreira, the main jockey, to get the 100th win for Mr. Hui Sai Fun.”
The owner’s first win came more than 60 years ago on 5 October, 1957 when the Wong Siu Hung-trained Temptation scored under three-time champion jockey Marcel Samarcq. That was a little more than nine months after Cruz, 61, was born – most of Hui’s horses since have been named for words ending with ‘tion’.
“Back in the days when I was a jockey, I rode winners for him, too, and to train this horse for him to make history today, I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m so glad we could get this win: I was hoping I could do it for him.
“He knew me back when I rode as an apprentice and it’s an honour to train for him too. He’s been an owner in Hong Kong for such a long time and he’s the only one who could do it – he was owning horses before I was born!”