Graduation night for Poon at Happy Valley, Teetan keeps on Blitzing

Matthew Poon celebrates his 70th Hong Kong win. Source: HKJC

Matthew Poon went into tonight’s (24 October) eight-race Happy Valley card hunting for one win to graduate from the apprentice ranks and the rider wasted no time snaring it.

“I was confident that I could do things right but I wasn’t confident I could get a winner,” Poon said after Glory Star carried him to the magic 70-win mark in the opener.

The rider took just 19 months to reach the benchmark, having opened his account aboard Happy Meteor on his first race-day at Sha Tin in March 2017.

Only Matthew Chadwick has graduated in a shorter time.

Poon enjoyed a successful overseas placement in South Australia, claiming the champion apprentice title there before being called back to his home city to advance his career under the tutelage of trainer David Hall.

“I suppose he came here with a big reputation and he probably had the best preparation out of all of (the local apprentices),” Hall said.

But for all of that, things have not always gone smoothly for the Hong Kong Apprentice Jockeys’ School student, who was injured just two races after Happy Meteor’s win at his step-out race meeting.

He started a three-day suspension after this evening’s fixture and has another two-meeting spell on the sidelines coming up later in November. Suspensions caused Poon some difficulties last term, too.

“Last year I had a little bit of a tough time because I had too many careless riding bans and I went a while without a winner. That had never happened to me before, so I felt a lot of pressure,” he said.

“Luckily, when I did get a winner, it released the pressure and my confidence built up – I just thought positive and everything went back on track again.”

Pressure is not something Hall has placed on his protégé, or not unduly, at least. Instead, the rider credits his boss with aiding his development.

“He has given me lots of opportunities, lots of barrier trials, lots of gallops as well as race rides, but he didn’t ever give me too much pressure,” he said.

“The pressure was just enough to remind me that I have to do things in a professional way, do the form – because Hong Kong is very tough – and he taught me to be more aware and focused in a race.”

Hall was delighted for Poon but acknowledged that the jockey has some work to do now that he has to compete without his apprentice claim on one of the world’s toughest circuits, even though he will still have the aid of a 3lb freelance allowance.

“He’s had a few trips to the stewards’ room and on a number of occasions they’ve been a similar sort of scenario, so he’s got a little bit of work to do and dropping from five (pounds) to three will have an impact as well,” Hall said.

“But he can ride the minimum,” he added. “He’s got a pretty level head on him and he’s well-liked among the local trainers so I think there will be plenty of opportunity for him. If he can handle the pressure, knuckle down and do some hard work, he’ll be fine.”

Those words rang true four races later when Poon bagged his second win of the night in the Class 4 LONGINES Cup Handicap (1000m). Beaut Beaut landed the trophy race by a neck at odds of 6.2, as Poon teamed with trainer Peter Ho to take his season’s tally to 12.

Teetan’s Trendiful and Blitzing

A brace, achieved in some style, lifted Karis Teetan to 20 wins for the term, three shy of premiership leader Zac Purton who took the last on the Manfred Man-trained Jade Theatre, the 2.5 favourite.

Teetan made plain his delight when the Ting-trained Trendiful made all to land race four, the Class 5 Lyric Ace Handicap (1200m), rising in the irons and saluting the win half a dozen strides before the line.

“It was for Jimmy (Ting) – it’s always nice to get a ride like that for a guy who is doing well and I appreciate him giving me a chance. Every win is good but when you win for a guy doing well you hope you can pick up a few more rides for him,” The Mauritian said.

That length and three-quarter score brought a double for the in-form Ting stable after Glory Star’s win.

Teetan enjoyed an even easier success two races later in the Class 4 Windicator Handicap (1200m). Blitzing led the field for a three-length win at odds of 1.7. That gave the rider his ninth success of the term in tandem with trainer Tony Cruz.

“He’s a lovely horse, he seems like he’s taken a step forward,” Teetan said.

“His last win was good but he felt like a different horse today – he led the race but he was so relaxed and when I pressed the button he responded and there was some in the tank. The feel he gave me was impressive – he’s got good speed and he can still turn it on at the end.”

The best finish of the night came in the penultimate race. Bottom-weight Powermax, trained by Richard Gibson, (116lb) dipped his head at the right moment for jockey Matthew Chadwick to hold off the late charge of top-weight Perfect Glory (133lb) by a nose. The latter, having only his second Hong Kong start, lost his unbeaten tag but reinforced the impression that he is a horse with a bright future.

Douglas Whyte, Hong Kong’s all-time most successful jockey, took his tally to 1,799 wins when the David Ferraris-trained Electric Lightning bagged race three.

Apprentice Victor Wong got out in front and was never headed on Giant Turtle in race two, scoring for his boss Tony Millard.