Milestones are in sight at Happy Valley Wednesday (5 February) night with trainer John Moore one away from his 1700th Hong Kong win and jockey Vincent Ho one short of his 300th Hong Kong win.
Moore took out his licence in 1985 and the record-setting handler is Hong Kong’s longest-serving and winning-most trainer. His lengthy honour roll of stars, includes the last six gallopers to been named Hong Kong Horse of the Year – Military Attack (2013), Designs On Rome (2014), Able Friend (2015), Werther (2016), Rapper Dragon (2017) and Beauty Generation (2018 & 2019).
The seven-time champion trainer’s three entries on Wednesday’s eight-race card are some way short of scaling those heights, but they might still give the handler a memorable night at the city circuit. Grant van Niekerk will be aboard two of those, firstly G Unit (120lb) in section two of the Class 3 Sports Road Handicap (1200m).
“That would be amazing if I could ride his 1700th winner,” Van Niekerk said. “G Unit has done everything right for me so far and he enjoys Happy Valley, so I’m sure he’ll give his best again.”
Fresh off a double on Sunday at Sha Tin, Van Niekerk is a man in hot demand with rides in all but one of the evening’s races. The South African has proved this season that he navigates his way around the Valley exquisitely, and has seven winners from the last four meetings at the city circuit among his haul of 26 in total this season.
“The 1200 (metres) might be the slight concern because he was running good races over five furlongs, and because he was running such good races over five furlongs we didn’t really want to change anything,” Van Niekerk said, before adding, “there are limited races at the moment over 1000 (metres) so we’re taking the chance because he’s shown he’s ready for 1200 (metres), we also have a good draw in our favour.”
The Danerich gelding will break from gate two in the 12-runner contest as he steps up to 1200m for the first time this season. His only previous run over the six-furlong distance resulted in fourth place behind Farhh Above last term. “He was a bit keen for me when I cantered him this morning but he’s a horse that definitely feels as though he has improved and we have a good draw – so let’s just hope we have some luck in running,” said Van Niekerk, who has partnered the gelding to both of his wins this term.
Magic Supreme (121lb), meanwhile, is winless as he prepares to take his place in the night’s finale, section one of the Class 3 Sports Road Handicap (1200m). “I went way too fast on him last time, John (Moore) let me know but we’re entitled to have a few bad races, everyone does but as long as you learn from it,” Van Niekerk said.
The Zoustar gelding arrived from Australia where he was a two-time winner in succession from eight starts, firstly at Warwick Farm and then at Rosehill in a smart 1100m Handicap. “He’s a horse that is still learning about racing, he’s a horse that wants to be ridden with a sit and in time he will have a nice finish on him,” Van Niekerk said.
The other ‘milestone man’ heading into Wednesday’s card is Vincent Ho. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Apprentice Jockeys’ School graduate has a full book of eight rides in his bid to land his 300th Hong Kong win. One of those, Massive Pocket (125lb), comes up against G Unit.
“I don’t really count to be honest, I only noticed the other day when everybody told me but I’m happy as long as I ride well and get on good horses in big races – those are my goals – I never really count the numbers,” Ho said.
The leading local rider’s well-publicised dedication and determination to win big races has borne fruit this season: he captured his first Group 2 when Rise High toppled Beauty Generation in the Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) and last week he guided Golden Sixty to victory in the HK$10 million Hong Kong Classic Mile.
Ho will break from the widest stall aboard the Francis Lui-trained Massive Pocket, the pair having combined earlier this season over 1000m at Sha Tin. “He went well first-up, I think he’ll run well this time because his form is there and hopefully he’ll be close,” he said.
Ho and Lui have formed a formidable combination this season, uniting for 12 wins from 78 starts and the pair also has This Is Class (121lb) in the night’s finale, section one of the Class 3 Sports Road Handicap.
“He’s a nice horse, he had a long break and still ran well the other day, hopefully he’ll improve further so he should be close and his trackwork has been good,” Ho said.