Frankie Lor is shaking things up around Sha Tin.
The second season handler landed his initial Group 1 last month and this afternoon (Sunday, 27 January) the former jockey stamped his mark on the Four-Year-Old Classic Series with a first Hong Kong Classic Mile success.
Furore’s impressive victory in 1m 34.28s led a Lor charge that saw the handler seal second and fourth for good measure.
The Pierro gelding stormed the final 400m in 22.25s for a two and a half-length victory in the hands of Hugh Bowman. Success represented first blood on the road to the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 17 March.
“It felt every bit as good as it would have looked,” said Bowman, whose best previous finish in the race was a frustrating second aboard Werther three years ago.
“I’m delighted with him – this is not his trip. After performing like that over this distance today, that’s very exciting for the rest of his Derby preparation.”
But today’s success was not exactly expected. Furore, the 5.4 third-choice in the market, was not even the top pick among Lor’s five runners – a record number for a trainer in the race.
“I thought Dark Dream was my best chance but the only thing was the bad draw in 12 – you can see in the race he was wide and then he got bumped,” Lor said.
Dark Dream returned the 2.8 favourite but endured a difficult run to place fourth, two and three quarter lengths behind his stablemate.
“Furore’s form has improved each race,” Lor continued. “I thought he’d run well but winning is a little bit of a surprise because I thought Dark Dream was a little bit better. Sometimes it’s like this!”
Bowman backed that assessment. The Australian ace was on the ground a week ago, riding Furore for the first time in a morning gallop. The G1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) third had raced with promise in two lead-up races under Derek Leung.
“I sat on him last week and certainly wouldn’t have expected him to show that sort of turn-of-foot over this distance against this opposition,” Bowman said. “He worked like he’d run well at a mile but I had my doubts that he could win at this class at the mile.
“I thought, that being the case, I wanted to ride him a bit more conservatively than he was last start, just to get him a confidence-boosting run heading towards the Derby. He was here on a Derby pass and judging by how he performed this afternoon it puts him in very good stead for the 2000-metre course.”
Lor on the rise
Furore’s win arrived one year after Lor’s Morethanlucky had placed third in the Classic Series’ opening gambit. The then-rookie trainer received warm recognition for that effort, but few could have thought then that the ambitious rising star of the training ranks would arrive at the next edition with the strongest hand in town.
The mafoo’s son, who was raised within view of Happy Valley Racecourse, is on a rapid upward trajectory. He ended his debut campaign second in the championship, behind his old master John Size, but having set a new record of wins for a first-season trainer.
His ability to secure one of the world’s biggest-name jockeys for Furore – not forgetting Silvestre de Sousa on Dark Dream and Zac Purton on Superich – is, in some measure, evidence of the handler’s rapid rise up the Sha Tin ranks.
“The owner suggested we put on a very good jockey, so I thought it must be Ryan Moore or Hugh Bowman and I asked Bowman,” he said.
Furore enjoyed a cruising run behind midfield until Bowman shifted his mount into daylight with 300m to race. That move shunted Gold Win sideways and caused a domino effect that rippled outwards and into the wide-running Dark Dream who was shoved off balance.
“He just got knocked out twice, I’ve come with a run and the horse on the inside moved out and cost me momentum,” de Sousa said.
Lor’s Mission Tycoon out-ran his rating of 84 to edge second by a nose.
“We had a good draw (1) and so we easily got a good position. I waited for a clear run so he saved a lot of petrol for the end and he ran very well,” jockey Leung said.
Ka Ying Star had sprinted clear of Furore to win his lead-up run but was no match for his rival this time. The Tony Cruz-trained bay crossed the field from gate 14 and led the way but ran out of steam in the closing stages.
“I’m happy with him,” Cruz said. “It was a bad draw otherwise he’d have finished second. We’ll go on to the Classic Cup and the Derby with him.”
Earlier on the card, the Purton-ridden G1 winner Exultant gave Cruz his 1,200th career win as a trainer with an impressive victory in the G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m).
Regency rolls on
Regency Legend maintained his unbeaten Hong Kong record with a tough win under Purton in the Class 2 Yuen Long Handicap (1200m). The exciting three-year-old conceded weight to all seven of his rivals but came out on top by a neck over Raging Blitzkrieg, having clocked a speedy 21.96s for the final 400m.
“In Class 2, carrying top-weight of 133(lb), it’s really hard, especially in Hong Kong,” trainer Danny Shum said of the 1.2 favourite’s performance.
“Now he’s won, he’ll go to the Class 1 where he won’t be carrying top-weight, and then we’ll give him two months off to refresh and we’ll see. We’ll let him relax a bit so that he’s not so tight. There’s no rush with him.”
Purton notched the second of his three wins on the card when Noble De Love stormed away with the Class 4 Pok Oi Cup Handicap (1200m). That was the Lor-trained six-year-old’s first start on the all-weather track.