Preciousship prevails but Columbus County bolts into Classic reckoning

Preciousship
Preciousship (in pink) lands the finale from a fast-finishing Columbus County (in gold).

Preciousship (123lb) continued his rich recent form and kept trainer Ricky Yiu ticking along at the top of the premiership with a game victory in yesterday afternoon’s (Saturday, 11 January) Sha Tin finale, the Class 2 Lung Kong Handicap (1600m).

The five-year-old took the spoils by three quarters of a length and, in doing so, dented a reputation or two, though not that of runner-up Columbus County (119lb) who enhanced his Four-Year-Old Classic Series prospects with an unlucky run to second.

“No doubt about it, he’s very unlucky not to win – if he hadn’t had horses snaking around in front of him, he would have won,” jockey Joao Moreira said of the Caspar Fownes-trained runner-up.

“It’s a promising run for the future,” he added.

The New Zealand import was beginning to hit his stride on a closing run at the 300m mark when fellow four-year-old Private Secretary rolled out and stalled his charge. The Redwood gelding recovered to rattle home at only his second Hong Kong start.

But the spoils belonged to Preciousship, a revelation this season with three wins from five starts, having failed to trouble the judge through eight races last term.

“It’s another impressive win, he’s a gutsy little horse. I said to the owner before I bought him, he could be one of the best milers – he tries very hard and loves his races,” Yiu said.

“Today’s the second time the jockey came in and said that when he hit the front he slowed down, he’s looking for something to come to him.”

The bay raced as Riyazan in Ireland where he won a 1400m Dundalk Listed race and was almost five lengths fifth of five to Saxon Warrior in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes.

“I kept telling the owner to give him some time to acclimatise, he’s a European import, they need time – you have to wait for the penny to drop and once he’s there, he’ll hold his form for a long time.”

Yiu’s win took him to 33 for the season, six clear of Francis Lui in the trainers’ title race.

“I’ll keep my position the best I can,” Yiu smiled.

As for the dented Classic Series reputations, Brazilian Group 1 winner Butterfield boxed on for sixth, but the well-regarded Private Secretary was unable to reproduce his stylish debut win and crossed the line a tame 10th.