Joyful Hunter returns to scene of triumph

Joyful Hunter wins smartly at Happy Valley.

Impressive debut winner Joyful Hunter will aim to extend his unbeaten sequence to two when he lines up at Happy Valley on Thursday night for trainer Francis Lui and jockey Vincent Ho.

Blitzing rivals by two lengths at the city circuit on 14 June, the Darci Brahma three-year-old turned heads with an electrifying turn of foot to score in fine style under Ho.

“It’s not easy to do that at Happy Valley and he had a bad draw (10). I wasn’t surprised, he sure had potential,” Lui said.

Amid yet another strong season, Lui has 58 wins to sit behind only John Size (73) and Frankie Lor (64) in the trainers’ championship, and he has been satisfied with Joyful Hunter’s condition ahead of his charge’s second start.

“I think he’s improved out of his first run. I think he has quality, but he’s still green. In the race he tries, you can see that in his first run that he won. He has a good fighting heart,” Lui said.

Joyful Hunter rose eight rating points to a mark of 60 following that effort, which came in a time of 1:09.84s. The New Zealand-bred clocked 22.62s for his final 400m – the fastest winning final sectional time at the race meeting last month.

Lui and Ho have combined for 34 wins in tandem this season, including the success of All Is Good on Monday night at Sha Tin. Joyful Hunter breaks from gate five.

Established sprinter Stoltz also represents Lui. The five-year-old was victorious down the straight at Sha Tin under jockey Zac Purton at the end of May.

“He’s kept his form. The distance is his best trip. He’s a lovely horse,” the handler said.

The 100-rater has had leg issues in the past, however, is now a four-time winner – including two times at Class 2 level – from 12 starts in Hong Kong.

Kurpany (130lb), Ping Hai Galaxy (126lb), Whizz Kid (124lb), Carroll Street (120lb) and Eason (120lb) are also engaged in the HK$2.64 million dash.

Hong Kong’s champion Golden Sixty continues to do light work at home and Lui is content with his 25-time winner, who was last seen landing a third straight HK$20 million Group 1 Champions Mile (1600m) last April.

“He’s doing light work and light trotting, we have to give him light work otherwise he’s too fresh. He’s happy and healthy,” Lui said.

Golden Sixty is expected to follow a similar programme next season to this, with a view to capturing a third HK$32 million Group 1 Hong Kong Mile (1600m) in December after his previous wins in 2020 and 2021.

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