On a day when Joao Moreira and Zac Purton delivered a masterclass at Sha Tin to illuminate an already intriguing fight for the Hong Kong jockeys’ premiership, Glorious Forever (126lb) stole a bright shaft of the spotlight with a triumph of Group 1 potential.
The Archipenko gelding produced a display that exuded grit, lung-straining stamina and, above all, exciting quality, to win the afternoon’s feature, the Class 2 Hoi Ha Handicap.
In doing so, the four-year-old clocked 1m 59.53s and became only the second victorious horse in history to dip below two minutes over 2000m at the track. Glorious Forever snipped 0.44 seconds off the mark his own-brother Time Warp set when taking the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup back in February.
“That performance today was particularly good, he’s broken the track record and there was a lot to like about it,” said Purton, who was also aboard Time Warp for his record-setting score.
Runner-up Insayshable (128lb) set the tempo under a determined Moreira, but John Size’s charge was unable to match Glorious Forever’s relentless stretch drive. The 1.6 favourite galloped away to a two and a quarter-length verdict, while bottom-weight General Sherman (115lb) kept on for third.
Trainer Frankie Lor, second in the trainers’ table and approaching the final two meetings of his debut season with 63 wins on the board thanks to a treble today, was daring to look ahead to Group 1 targets next term.
“If he keeps improving he should be a horse to progress through to the International Races,” he said, with December’s Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) in mind.
But Lor and Purton both know that to reach those heights Glorious Forever, for all of his apparent talent, still has some learning to do and progress to make.
“He did a lot wrong today,” Purton said.
“He basically over-raced for the entirety of the race; he wanted to throw his head around a little bit and get on with it, which is not a good sign. Frankie putting the blinkers on has brought out the best in him, but if a horse can’t adapt to being behind other runners and become one-dimensional then they make it hard for themselves.”
Lor noted the British import’s mid-race exuberance, too.
“He sat behind the other horse but suddenly he was a bit keen, so maybe there will be improvement as he develops and matures next season,” he said.
“At 2000 metres, in future, I think we might look at using some other gear, maybe a visor, we will see.”
Glorious Forever backed up an impressive four-length win last start to make it two from four in Hong Kong, having nailed two wins from eight starts in England when trained by Ed Walker.
“When he came to my stable he was a bit skinny after the journey and didn’t look impressive. We galloped him and gave him some trials and he looked better when he trialled. Then, when I put the blinkers on in the trial, he found improvement,” Lor said.
Moreira and Purton dazzle
The incredible riding clinic put on by Moreira and Purton saw the pair end the day with four wins apiece – Moreira took four second-place finishes for good measure, too. The season’s two remaining fixtures afford the two riders 19 opportunities to increase their tallies.
The duo went into the third-last meeting with Purton three wins ahead in the title race. But Moreira has not been champion jockey three years straight for nothing and the Brazilian came out fighting, snaring the first two contests on the 11-race card.
In the opener, the Lor-trained Speed Vision outpointed the same trainer’s Witness Hunter, ridden by Purton who is seeking a second Hong Kong champion jockey crown. Race two saw Moreira and Snowhooves kick past the Purton-ridden Ever Strong to score, with the latter fading to third.
Purton struck back in the third and fourth races, The Full Bloom easily holding the Moreira-ridden Yourthewonforme and then Glorious Forever giving Purton a second win as Moreira took second again on Insayshable.
With both riders in peak form, Moreira sealed a treble aboard second-starter Cordyceps, claiming a neck success in race five, and Purton matched that in race six when Amazing Moment kicked past his rival’s mount, runner-up Giddy Giddy. The defending champion made it a four-timer in the seventh contest aboard the Dennis Yip-trained Winning Controller.
Karis Teetan finally snapped the domination in race eight. The Mauritian urged on the Ricky Yiu-trained Encore Boy through a downpour to land the Class 3 Lai Chi Chong Handicap (1200m).
Purton, though, was not done.
The Australian matched his rival’s four wins when enjoying a comfortable score in race 10 atop the Lor-trained Patch Baby. At the end of the day’s play, the score stood 133 – 130, with Purton still three ahead.
Kerm Din’s “Pakistan Star” silks were at the fore in the Tai Mong Tsai Handicap (1400m) – when it mattered, at least.
Pakistan Friend emulated his owner’s famous Group 1 winner by stepping out of the March Hong Kong International Sale to make a winning debut. Tony Cruz’s charge, a chestnut son of Not A Single Doubt, raced immaturely and arrived on the scene late off a deep-closing run. The 16/1 chance scored by a neck under Tommy Berry.
Winston’s Lad took the finale under Vincent Ho, giving the Lui stable a double.