Trainer Benno Yung is hesitant to throw hulking grey Pingwu Spark in against the “big boys” but admits that he may now have no other choice after Hong Kong’s largest horse recorded his fifth win of the season in the Class 2 Lung Kong Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin today (Sunday, 21 January).
Pingwu Spark, who tipped the scales at 1332lb heading into today’s race, sat deep throughout under regular rider Derek Leung, but the Mastercraftsman five-year-old produced a tough effort to overhaul pace-setting Wah May Friend by a half-length. Three-year-old Easy Go Easy Win, having just his second start in Hong Kong, finished third after striking trouble mid-stretch.
“He just keeps improving with every start,” Yung said. “Not many horses win five races in a season and he has done it already when we are not halfway through. He shows something different every time, too, so while I’m not surprised with how high he has got, I am surprised at what he has shown.”
Yung is now looking at two races in February, both over the Sha Tin 1400m at which he has won his last three starts.
“I’d prefer to go to the Chinese New Year Cup, it’s a Class 1 handicap and although he’d carry plenty of weight the competition would be easier,” the trainer said. “However, he might have too high a rating after they are updated tomorrow, so, if so, he might have to go up against the big boys at set weights in the Group 1 (the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup). That would be very tough but that might be the only place we can go.
“I don’t want to get there too early, he’s still learning and he’s still not the full package. There are two Class 1 races he is eligible for over 1200m and 1600m in March but he’s a big horse and, while I don’t want to rush him, I also don’t want to go too long between races. That might be too long.”
The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup is scheduled for 25 February.
Also building on his win record this season was John Size’s four-year-old Conte, who made it four-from-four with his all-the-way victory under Joao Moreira in the nightcap, the first section of the Class 3 South Wall Handicap (1400m).
Size suggested after his last victory that he would resist the temptation to throw Conte into any of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series legs – of which the first, the Hong Kong Classic Mile, was taken out by stablemate Nothingilikemore 35 minutes before Conte’s appearance. That was the theme again after the son of Starcraft recorded a one and a quarter length win over Tony Millard’s honest grey Roundabout.
“Class 2, here we come,” Size said. “There’s not much more to add on his last few wins – he is what he is, he’s honest and he keeps stepping up. I’m sure we can find another race for him over 1400m, but there’s no need to push him too early.”
Leung and Moreira both scored doubles, with Leung taking the Class 4 Nam Kok Handicap (1000m) on Francis Lui-trained Lucky Volatility and Moreira saluting aboard Nothingilikemore in the Hong Kong Classic Mile.