Happy Tour, who looms as an exciting graduate of the Hong Kong International Sale, set the Sha Tin All-Weather Track alight today (Sunday 2 December) with a class record breaking win by five lengths in the Middle Handicap (1200m) which was arguably the standout performance of the meeting.
The four-year-old, by boom Australian sire Snitzel, careered his way out of Class 4 with this dominant, front-running performance, stopping the clock at 1.08.14 – under top weight of 133lb. The win completed a double for trainer Danny Shum and jockey Zac Purton who have a 16.7% winning strike rate together this season.
The duo combined earlier with Perfect Match, who also made all, to win the 1400m Cameron Handicap on the turf track. Both are lightly raced and destined for better things according to Shum who now boasts a healthy 16 winners for the season.
“He’s only had the four starts and I’m sure he’s still improving,” Shum said of Happy Tour, before adding, “and Zac (Purton) gave me a good report about the other horse too.”
Purton, who later completed a treble aboard Hang’s Decision in the Mody Handicap (1650m), was especially taken with Happy Tour. He said: “He’s just continued to get better with each run and I think he could go on with it. He feels like a horse with a bit of scope. The other horse Perfect Match probably didn’t beat much but he did the job well enough.”
The reigning champion and defending International Jockeys’ Championship title-holder certainly takes hot form into Wednesday night’s challenge. The treble took his season’s tally to 35 wins which has him six clear, atop the jockey’s premiership, from Karis Teetan, who missed today’s meeting due to suspension. He returns Wednesday.
Purton picked up the ride on the Chris So-trained Hang’s Decision, who posted his first AWT win and his seventh in all, after Eddie Lai stood down because of stomach cramps.
Ting’s fine start continues and Yeung escapes serious injury
Trainer Jimmy Ting’s fine start to the season continued in today’s opening Ashley Handicap (1800m), when Holy Unicorn led throughout under Dylan Mo. The success takes Ting’s tally to 18 for the term, second only to Tony Cruz.
Holy Unicorn has now won three of his four starts for Ting after failing to win in 27 starts for previous trainers Almond Lee and the aforementioned master Cruz.
The success of Conghua interns also continued today with trainer Dennis Yip having sent Carnarvon Handicap winner Travel First to the mainland facility for nine days after his previous run at Happy Valley. The gelding was sweetly rated in front by Silvestre de Sousa to comfortably record his first win for almost two years.
The Brazilian might have expected to double up on 2.7 favourite Refined Treasure in the Peninsula Golden Jubilee Challenge Cup (1000m) but the Ricky Yiu-trained Speedy King, with Derek Leung aboard and enjoying a 12lb pull in the weights, stopped the Tony Millard-trained top weight’s winning streak at three. Refined Treasure hadn’t raced since May but was far from disgraced in second.
De Sousa had to wait until the final race for a second winner when his rails-hugging ride secured victory for the John Size-trained Mr So And So, who has spent most of the last month at Conghua.
Refined Treasure, however, was not the shortest priced favourite beaten. That dubious distinction went to the Me Tsui-trained Ugly Warrior, beaten for just the second time in seven starts, when third to Big Time Baby and Matthew Poon in the Nathan Handicap (1200m). The win completed a double for trainer Manfred Man, successful earlier with Ever Strong.
Big Time Baby collected a high achievement bonus to be the big-time money winner of the day. The bonus added to the first prize money meant his owners, the Golden Era Syndicate took home almost HK$2m.
The Irish-bred gelding, like Happy Tour earlier, ran slick time at the same course and distance. His 1.07.74 was not far outside the course record, held by Dehere’s The Love.
Meanwhile, jockey Keith Yeung is believed to have escaped serious injury when unseated from Startling Power about 150 metres after the start of the Middle Handicap. Yeung, who walked back to the jockey’s room unaided, was taken to the Prince of Wales hospital which classified his case as non-urgent with no ‘significant findings’.
Racing continues on Wednesday night (5 December) for the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley before the season’s highlight, the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on Sunday (9 December).