Trainer John Size and jockey Joao Moreira both predicted Ivictory could make his way to the very top after the four-year-old produced a scintillating effort to win the Class 2 Flame Tree Handicap (1200m) in course record time at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (7 March).
As Moreira had predicted pre-race, he sent 1.5 favourite Ivictory straight to the lead in the seven-horse field, and the Brazilian rider produced a perfect front-running ride as he gradually increased the tempo throughout.
Upon straightening, the Mossman gelding was still coasting on the bridle while his rivals were under heavy pressure trying to chase; in the end, it was all in vain.
Moreira was even able to sneak a cheeky peek over his right shoulder as Ivictory (128lb), still untouched, cruised home two and three quarter lengths ahead of California Whip (126lb). His final time of 1m 08.52s smashed the previous benchmark of 1m 08.70s, set by Tiger Prawn in November, 2007.
“Track record? That’s about as good as it gets,” a grinning Size said. “No need for me to say anything, right?”
Size now has some of the best sprinters in town, including Group 1 winners Mr Stunning and D B Pin and emerging talents like Beat The Clock, Premiere and Hot King Prawn. However, the usually understated Size was happy to place him amongst that company.
“The impressive thing with this horse is that with his trackwork and on trials this preparation, I thought he would be my next sprinter, and he has not let me down,” Size said.
“He had time off with a bone disorder, I gave him four months on the sidelines and let him recuperate slowly. If he came back sound, I knew he’d make good progress. Well, he’s been sound obviously this time in.
“He had to do a little work to cross, he’s probably been four deep on the first turn, but his weapon is that he comes back underneath his rider and he can rate him, which means you can use him early and then he will come back.”
Moreira has been associated with a slew of Hong Kong’s best gallopers in his five years in the city. However, he said that Ivictory gave him a rare feeling that only top-class thoroughbreds can produce.
“It’s been quite some time since I’ve felt that way on a horse, with a horse winning so easily underneath me,” he said.
“He was just so impressive and he’s so smart, he does everything perfectly, he’s a professional. The most amazing part is what happened when the horses started chasing behind him – he raced away and I didn’t need to do anything.
“I took a look over my shoulder just to make sure the feeling I had on the horse was right – and it was! It’s hard to describe just what that feels like. He is going places.”
It was the second leg of a Moreira race-to-race double, with the championship leader taking the opener, the Class 5 Birch Handicap (1800m), aboard the Ricky Yiu-trained Megatron. The jockey then added another victory aboard the Size-trained Har Har Heart in the Class 4 Rotary Centenary Challenge Cup Handicap (1650m) to make it seven wins in two meetings.
Aside from Moreira, Australian rider Nash Rawiller also scored a race-to-race double aboard Good Days in the Class 3 Larch Handicap (2200m) and Hero Time in the Class 4 Palm Handicap (1200m).
His compatriot, Zac Purton, won the Class 3 Yew Handicap (1200m) aboard Fortune Booth, but his quest for a race-to-race double of his own was brought unstuck when Fast Most Furious fell a nose short of overhauling the Umberto Rispoli-ridden Smart Boy in the Class 3 Ireland Trophy Handicap (1200m).
The nightcap, the Class 3 Poplar Handicap (1650m), was won by the impressive Danny Shum trainee Winning Faith, who made it three wins on the trot when racing clear for an easy win under apprentice Dylan Mo.
“He hasn’t surprised me, I always thought he’d like Happy Valley because it can be a bit easier underfoot,” Shum said.
“This season, he has just acclimatised and I have gelded him too, so it’s all come together.
“Now, I think he can win in Class 2, especially with a light weight. He is just a confident horse currently.”