Frankie Lor snagged a brace at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 13 March) with a pair of promising young gallopers, Fat Turtle and Frustrated.
The former took the finale, section two of the Class 3 Matheson Handicap (1200m), under Zac Purton. It was no mean feat either, being the Australian import’s first Hong Kong start.
“It was a nice effort,” the champion jockey said of the 3.6 favourite. “He did a lot right, he jumped well, he got a little bit lost on the corners but I thought he was going to win easily when I came into the straight. He sort of sprinted clear and then he ran out of steam a bit.
“It’s never easy as a PP (Private Purchase) first time in Hong Kong, especially at Happy Valley under the lights.”
The nighttime illuminations were also a pre-race concern for Lor, who otherwise expected a bold show from the Smart Missile four-year-old, a three-time winner before his arrival at Sha Tin in mid-October.
“I thought he’d run well today because he had a good draw (3),” Lor said. “The only concern was it being Happy Valley and whether he’d be scared of the lights or not but he looked ok. He’ll handle a little bit further – 1400 and a mile.”
Frustrated, meanwhile, opened his account under apprentice Victor Wong at his third career start. The black gelding’s white face flashed down the home straight for a length and a half verdict in the Class 4 John Peel Handicap (1000m).
“Frustrated drew 11 in his first two races and that is very difficult but this time he was drawn two, which is much easier and he had Victor’s seven pounds off,” Lor said.
The hander has three leading contenders for Sunday’s (17 March) BMW Hong Kong Derby and admitted to nerves ahead of the big day. The barrier draw for the third leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series is on Thursday (14 March) morning.
Girl ends Van Niekerk drought
Grant van Niekerk ended a 53-ride, 10-meeting shutout with a rail-hugging victory on Lucky Girl in the Class 3 Yee Wo Street Handicap (1650m).
The South African arrived in September for his maiden Hong Kong season with guns blazing, notching a double on opening day. By 27 January, when King Opie scored at Sha Tin, Van Niekerk had a more-than-respectable 17 wins on the board – but there things stalled.
“This place can be really tough,” he said after driving the Danny Shum-trained gelding to a three-quarter-length score over Merrygowin.
“If you’re not getting the best of rides going into a meeting you try to be confident but you also have to be realistic. It makes a huge difference if you do win and prove to the trainers that you can ride.
“Some trainers have their jockeys so it’s hard to get rides from some of them but you have to keep grinding away. The wheel eventually turns,” he added.
Lucky Girl’s own dry run stretched back to November 2017.
Lui and Ho again
Vincent Ho will partner the highly-regarded Ka Ying Star in Sunday’s Derby but tonight it was business as usual as he teamed with Francis Lui to produce Alpha Hedge in the night’s trophy race, the Class 4 Ewo Challenge Trophy Handicap (1650m).
It was Lui’s 16th win of the campaign. Ho has steered home 13 of those victors and the handler was happy to relate what makes the partnership work.
“Vincent’s a hard worker and his only thought is how he can win the race,” he said. “He has a focus on what he wants to achieve and that’s something you want to see in a jockey.”
Alpha Hedge had made the frame four times in his last five starts but this evening’s success was a career first for the five-year-old at his 13th try.
“He was always very close,” Lui said. “He needs cover and last time Joao Moreira was unlucky, he was three wide. This time, Vincent knew from experience what he needed to do.”
Blitzing storms in
The admirably consistent Blitzing sealed a Tony Cruz double when landing section one of the Class 3 Matheson Handicap (1200m) under Karis Teetan. The four-year-old followed stablemate Bullish Brother’s win under Matthew Poon in the Class 5 opener.
“The time wasn’t impressive but I think he still has a bit of improvement in him,” Cruz said of Blitzing after the gelding nailed his third win at start 12. “He has a racing mind now and he’s much more professional.
“He’s a Class 3 horse, he’s no superstar, but he’s been consistent. What I like about him is his size and his conformation, he has a very strong body, a good sprinting frame and he can take his races.”
Neil Callan was on the board with the Richard Gibson-trained Jolly Convergence at 27/1 in race two. Matthew Chadwick and trainer Benno Yung combined to take the fifth with breakthrough winner Cinquante Cinq.