When you saddle almost a hundred winners in your first season and a half, including two at the Hong Kong International Races and three of the first four in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, then you have to be more than just lucky.
And, with that in mind, it seems highly appropriate that Hong Kong’s brightest new training star Frankie Lor is aiming Morethanlucky (128lb) for the feature event at Thursday’s (7 February) Chinese New Year Race day at Sha Tin.
Lor started the Year of the Dog with a breakthrough first Class 1 success when veteran Dundonnell landed the Chinese New Year Cup (1400m) in front of a big holiday crowd 12 months ago and bids to mark the Year of the Pig by landing the same HK$2.625 million contest with a horse who has showcased his ability to turn base metal into gold more than any other.
Morethanlucky was rated just 53 after seven unplaced efforts for Benno Yung when he joined Lor in the summer of 2017.
Five wins and almost HK$6.5 million in prize money later, he lines up from a mark of 103 against just five rivals as one of the prime contenders for a race won in the past by Hong Kong luminaries like Super Kid, Good Ba Ba and Glorious Days.
“Some horses don’t acclimatize to Hong Kong in their first season so I was lucky to get him from Benno,” Lor said.
“I was surprised to see such a small field but Morethanlucky is still in very good form. I think he’s got a good chance with the same jockey as last time so let’s hope we can win another Cup race.”
The jockey Lor refers to is Alexis Badel, who rode Morethanlucky for the first time when second in a G3 contest at Sha Tin on 1 January.
Morethanlucky recorded a career-best effort that day, battling on willingly to chase home high-class Conte, and Badel was delighted with the way he applied himself both there and during a smooth recent trial.
“He carried a light weight for his last run, which was a big advantage, but he gave me a very good turn of foot against a very strong rival in Conte,” Badel said.
“This time he has a much bigger weight but it seems he is still in great shape and Frankie has done such a good job with him. Frankie gave me my first Group winner in Hong Kong when Simply Brilliant won the January Cup so it would be a great to start Chinese New Year to have another big win for him.”
Patch bids to punch a Derby ticket
John Moore knows the clock is ticking on his bid to produce a seventh BMW Hong Kong Derby winner but is hoping Solar Patch (113lb) can prove himself “a latecomer to the party but a very interesting one” as he returns from a lengthy break in Thursday’s feature.
The lightly-raced chestnut, who won twice last spring, hasn’t been seen since finishing a close third in the final race of last season due to a splint fracture but has shown enough in recent trials to make Moore think he can show up boldly under a light weight on his way to bigger things.
“I’m going into Thursday’s race with very high hopes. He’s a horse with a lot of talent and I think he is one of my Derby picks,” the trainer said of Silvestre de Sousa’s mount.
“We can plan after Thursday whether we go into the Classic Cup,” he added. “I’m really happy with his progress. He couldn’t have gone better.”
The six-runner field for Thursday’s feature is headed by Jolly Banner (133lb), who finished a close second to Dundonnell last year and arrives fresh from a shock 89-1 success under Matthew Poon in the G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1000m).
California Whip (131lb) and What Else But You (131lb) have Teetan and Joao Moreira aboard, while likely front runner Regency Bo Bo (113lb) will be ridden by Dylan Mo.
Party on hat-trick
Lor and jockey Grant Van Niekerk are hoping rising star Big Party can take his debut Hong Kong season to the next level when he bids to complete a three-timer in the Fat Choi Handicap (1200m).
The three-year-old, raised 13 points for a commanding course and distance success, looked impressive in a recent trial and “hasn’t put a foot wrong with me” according to his rider.
“Big Party has a high cruising speed and can quicken off it, which is what good horses do,” added Van Niekerk. “We’ll take it step by step but I’m hoping he can go all the way.”