The Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) next month remains an option for Lucky Express after the gifted gelding showcased undoubted talent with a brilliant victory in the Class 1 Panasonic Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Saturday (13 November).
Ridden by Zac Purton, John Size’s galloper improved his overall Hong Kong record to two wins and seven minor placings from 14 starts after developing a reputation for waywardness under pressure last season.
Providing master trainer Size with his fifth success in the Panasonic Cup, the Australian-bred son of Toronado gave Purton his first victory in the race after a masterful ride by the four-time Hong Kong champion jockey.
“Barrier one was great and he was able to jump out well. He showed some natural speed today. The pace was nice and he just tracked up behind them and he just needed a run at the right time,” Purton said.
“Luckily there was room on the fence. He sprinted through really quickly like he would win by two or three lengths but when he got there, as we’ve seen before, he still doesn’t quite know how to put them away and lifted his head up and wanted to drift out.
“He did enough. Good effort first-up.”
Lucky Express prevailed in the HKD$3.15 million feature by a head over Fast Most Furious with Highland Fortune a further neck away in third place.
Size indicated he would fully analyse Lucky Express’ performance before deciding if he would tackle the Hong Kong Mile on Sunday, 12 December at Sha Tin.
“I haven’t even seen a replay yet, just let me absorb that and then we’ll make a plan,” he said.
“It was a good run, he trialled up very nicely and he came back from his long break in very good condition.
“He showed straight away that he wanted to win a race the first day we trialled him. It’s a tough campaign the four-year-olds do but mostly they come back and they get their rewards as five-year-olds.”
Size previously won the Panasonic Cup with Electronic Unicorn (2001), Gem Of India (2005), Real Specialist (2012) and Western Express (2017).
Formerly known as Prince Of Sussex in Australia, where he twice won impressively as a two-year-old for Matt Laurie, Lucky Express had previously been partnered in Hong Kong by Joao Moreira, Karis Teetan, Vincent Ho, Antoine Hamelin and Vagner Borges.
The disappointment of the race was the performance of +100 favourite Fantastic Treasure, who finished ninth after over-racing early before looming wide on the course.
Lucky Express’ success capped another productive meeting for Size, who earlier unveiled another promising talent, Pins Prince, who triumphed in the Class 4 Panasonic Japan Made System Kitchen Handicap (1200m) under Joao Moreira, who finished the day with a treble.
By Pins, the four-year-old sat third on the fence before overhauling Smart Wongchoy and Jerry Chau late.
“It was a nice effort for a first starter. I mean he had a good gate and he got a very good ride – Joao managed him very well – but it’s always nice when you ask them to go, lengthen and produce it, so there’s a bit of encouragement in that.”
Moreira’s treble moves him to 26 wins this term, six behind championship-leading jockey Zac Purton whose single enhances his haul to 32.
Tony Cruz is considering a tilt at the Hong Kong Classic Mile – the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series – in January with The Golden Scenery after the Deep Field gelding’s win under Karis Teetan in the Class 3 Panasonic 6-Door Refrigerator Handicap (1200m).
“He’s a small horse but he’s got a big heart. He’s always been trying very hard,” Cruz said.
“We’ll step back up in trip later on, I’m going to give him one more run at 1200 metres and then I’ll see from there.
“He’s like Ima Single Man – 1400 metres will probably be the perfect distance for him. If everything goes right, we will try to stretch him but all these Deep Fields are only sprinters, I don’t think they get a mile – we will step him up to 1400 later and then we will see.”
Cruz closed the meeting with a race-to-race double as Moreira slotted his treble with victory atop Master Hero in the Class 3 Panasonic Thermo Ventilator Handicap (1400m).
Tony Millard celebrated his 60th birthday in style when Ultra Express cruised to victory in the Class 3 Panasonic Futon Dryer Handicap (1650m, dirt) for Moreira.
“He’s a nice horse and it’s great to win on a day when the favourites have been getting beaten,” Millard, a dual Hong Kong Derby-winning trainer, said. “He’s by Power and they seem to like the dirt.
“He did a good job today and Joao rode him well.”
Me Tsui praised Vincent Ho’s patience after Best For You stormed from last-to-first in the Class 4 Panasonic Nanoe Hair Dryer Handicap (1400m).
“It was a very good ride from Vincent,” Tsui said after posting his fifth win of the campaign. “I was a little surprised with the win but his trial was good. Vincent was very patient and that was the difference today.”
A son of Not A Single Doubt, Best For You has now won three times on Sha Tin’s seven-furlong course.
David Hall’s Eight Trigrams upstaged short-priced favourite Vento to win the Class 4 Panasonic Inverter Window Air-Conditioner Handicap (1000m) under Dylan Mo.
“He’s a good, solid sprinter and he was given a good ride,” Hall said.
Dennis Yip and Alfred Chan combined with Solar Power in the Class 4 Panasonic IH Warm Jar Handicap (1650m, dirt).
A late decision to enter Victorious Seeker in the Class 4 Panasonic Oled TV Handicap (2000m) paid off for Paul O’Sullivan when the Sebring gelding proved too strong for 10 rivals under Derek Leung.
“We are getting him ready for a race at Happy Valley in a couple of weeks, so to win today is a bonus,” the New Zealander said, savouring his stable‘s second win of the season.
Benno Yung was elated with Incredible’s effort to land the Class 5 Panasonic Steam Oven Handicap (1800m) under Keith Yeung, who drove the Orpen gelding to the lead and cleared out to a clear-cut win, justifying solid market support despite being unplaced in his previous 12 starts.
“I’m very pleased with that,” Yung said. “The horse did a very good job.”