Ricky Yiu, Zac Purton split Happy Valley honours with trebles

Soulmate bolts in for Zac Purton.

Ricky Yiu and Zac Purton shared the Happy Valley limelight on Wednesday night (16 February) with trebles as the former champion trainer and jockey delivered timely reminders of enduring class and skill.

Yiu, leading Hong Kong trainer in 2019/20, combined with Purton twice with Soulmate and Bulletproof, while also prevailing with Villa Fionn under Antoine Hamelin to boost his tally to 22 wins for the season.

“The team is doing well,” Yiu said, before referencing the 38 seconds and 30 third placings the stable has racked up this term. “About time – the horses are running well.”

Yiu clocked the first leg of his three-timer when Hamelin drove late aboard Villa Fionn to clinch the second section of the Class 4 Spruce Handicap (1650m). A son of Sebring, Villa Fionn has now posted four of his five Hong Kong victories over 1650m at the city circuit.

Yiu then joined forces with Purton when Bulletproof finished stoutly off a perfect trail from barrier 10 to win the first section of the Class 4 Spruce Handicap (1650m), delighting the trainer.

“The plan worked out good,” Yiu said of Purton’s ride. “He’s a gutsy little horse, he’s in the middle of Class 4, so he’s still eligible to do something.”

Purton currently trails arch-rival Joao Moreira 74-69, after making further inroads into what was once an 18-win deficit and, with the Brazilian sidelined for two more meetings, the Australian is hopeful of further reducing the gap.

“Three’s good and hopefully there’s more coming,” Purton said after triumphing on the talented, lightly-raced Soulmate in the Class 3 Cypress Handicap (1650m).

“Obviously when he (Soulmate) gets the start right, he’s quite competitive and he’s matured into quite a nice horse. He flew the gate tonight and once he got there, he got himself into a nice rhythm, gave a nice kick off the bend and won well in the end.”

Purton also figured aboard The Runner, who left Frankie Lor pleasantly surprised with success in the first section of the Cedar Handicap (1200m) despite initial fears Manfred Man’s Sky Forever had finished over the top under a driving finish from Keith Yeung.

The photo-finish revealed The Runner had held on by a nose, surprising Lor who has moved to within one win – 47-46 – of John Size in the trainers’ championship.

“It looked like we had lost but when I walked out, I saw the photo finish,” Lor said. “When Zac came back, he said ‘I thought I had lost’, so today is lucky. He has improved since we put the visor on him, good win today.”

The success elevated The Runner into joint second in the HKD$1 million DBS x Manulife Million Challenge standings with Special M on 48 points behind Fa Fa (60 points) ahead of the series finale next Wednesday (23 February) at Happy Valley.

Ruan Maia
Ruan Maia strikes with a double.

Ruan Maia continues to make the most of limited opportunities, contriving a double from just three rides on Wednesday night with both winners – Above and Meridian Genius – saddled by Tony Millard.

“I’m very happy to get these few rides tonight and to get these winners tonight. Every week, I get a few winners from not too many rides and this is great,” Maia said after prevailing on Meridian Genius in the second section of the Class 3 Cedar Handicap (1200m).

“At the early stages (of the season), there weren’t too many rides, not too many winners and after last three, four months I get more winners and I get more confidence and more support because everything improves.”

Millard believes Above, winner of the Class 3 Fountain Palm Handicap (2200m), has the staying capacities to contend in the Group 3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) at Sha Tin on 1 May.

“If he can pick up another (race), he’d be a horse that I could go towards the Queen Mother with – these type of staying races – and he wouldn’t be out of place there now,” Millard said.

“He certainly has improved since I’ve got him (from retired trainer John Moore) and that’s typical of stayers, they get better with age.”

Luke Ferraris
Luke Ferraris returns to the winners’ list.

Luke Ferraris snapped a 78-ride run of outs with success aboard Caspar Fownes-trained Killer Instinct in the second section of the Class 4 Larch Handicap (1200m).

The South African’s previous victory came aboard Meridian Genius at Happy Valley on 22 December.

“It’s been a bit of a dry patch but I’m very grateful to Caspar for the support and hopefully this win gets the ball rolling,” Ferraris said. “He looks like a smart horse, still a bit green and that win will give him confidence.”

So Awesome posted his second victory from his past six starts with success in the first section of the Class 4 Larch Handicap (1200m) to continue Matthew Chadwick’s productive season.

Chadwick’s 26th win of the season came aboard Manfred Man’s improving sprinter, whose 25 starts in Hong Kong include nine minor placings.

Dylan Mo posted his first winner since injuring a toe in a race accident at Happy Valley 26 January when Benno Yung’s Multimore clung on for victory in the Class 5 Walnut Handicap (1000m).

“I’m feeling good in this moment,” Mo said. “I’m feeling good and it’s always good to ride a winner.”

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