The DBS x Manulife Million Challenge kicked off with the Class 2 Big Wave Bay Handicap (1650m) at Happy Valley last night, Wednesday, 11 September. The HK$1 million competition runs through to 26 February and awards points to the first four horses across the line in all races of Class 3 and above at the city track.
Green Luck (119lb) sealed a double for his “Green” themed owner Li Wing Hon, and picked up a maximum 15 points in the Million Challenge for an impressive score in the evening’s classiest contest.
Trainer Caspar Fownes has always held the five-year-old in good regard and his opinion was justified when the Street Cry gelding stopped the clock at a track record 1m 38.58s, a length and a half clear of runner-up Helene Charisma (119lb).
“I’m very impressed. I’ve said it for a while, this horse is (capable of) triple figures. It’s nice to see him do that because that was a tough effort, really, to get going when he did and in the end he was very strong on the line,” Fownes said.
Jockey Joao Moreira settled the 90-rated Australian import second last in the nine-runner field before starting a long advance for home with 700m to race. The Brazilian bustled his mount through a sustained wide-running effort that secured the lead 200m out and bagged a third win at the track and trip.
“Caspar said to try to look after him for the first half of the race and then to start asking him a little bit early because he’s got a long run,” Moreira said.
“I didn’t think it was a track record but I could feel like he was running home very strongly. All the praise should go to Caspar, he got this horse so well for today and I’m very pleased and lucky to be on board.”
Fownes is confident that last season’s Hong Kong Classic Mile sixth has more to offer.
“He came here with a bit of character but I said to the owner that he’s got something there, he’s got a big engine, we just had to get into his head and sort him out. It’s great that he’s started this season well and hopefully we can go on to bigger things with him,” the trainer said.
“This track suits him and there are enough races here for him, but to be a good horse in Hong Kong you have to go and do it at the other track, so when the opportunity arises and he’s handicapped off a low weight against good horses, I’ll take them on and see what happens.”
Moreira nabbed a double when Smart Leader edged the finale, the Class 3 Chung Hom Kok Handicap (1200m), for trainer Tony Cruz, leaving both men at the head of their respective premierships with five wins apiece.