Trainer Danny Shum is no stranger to success in the Hong Kong Airlines Million Challenge, having won the Happy Valley series in two of the last three seasons. The handler begins his assault on this year’s contest with Super Hoppy and Lucky Girl at the city track tomorrow night (Wednesday, 5 September).
The HK$1 million Hong Kong Airlines Million Challenge awards points to horses racing in Class 3 and above at Happy Valley between tomorrow night’s Valley opener and the Challenge’s climax on 13 February, 2019.
Shum took the spoils with Speedy Longwah in the 2015/16 contest before Charity Glory’s victory last season. While seven-year-old Lucky Girl may be approaching the twilight of his career, Super Hoppy looks to have plenty of promise and may eventually shape as a potential Million Challenge contender.
Super Hoppy makes his Class 2 debut in the nightcap, the Big Wave Bay Handicap (1200m), having won two Class 3 races from two starts for Shum last term. Chad Schofield, who rode the Captain Sonador five-year-old for the first time in a riverside turf gallop on Monday (3 September), partners the chestnut tomorrow night.
“He feels really fit for his first-up run this season and he’s got a nice light weight and a good draw,” Schofield said this morning (Tuesday, 4 September). “He was quite impressive in Class 3 last season for Danny and I think up in grade with a light weight he’s going to run really well.”
Schofield, now in his fourth season of riding in Hong Kong, sees the Shum stable as one potential outlet for future winners as the 24-year-old looks to break into the top echelon of Hong Kong jockeys, especially with an opportunity arising after the departure of three-time Champion Jockey Joao Moreira.
“I’m riding a bit of work for Danny in the mornings and he’s offering me a few rides, which is really nice, so it’ll be good for me if I can win on the horse,” Schofield said. “With the big hole Joao’s left there’s lots more winners to be had for all of us and hopefully I’m one that can pick up some of the nice light-weighted horses, and hopefully it adds to my tally at the end of the season.”
Super Hoppy (117lb) is at the bottom of the weights in a strong 11-runner line-up. Among his rivals are last-start winners Super Turbo (132lb) and Bold Stitch (124lb), as well as the consistent Fortune Booth (127lb).
Also stepping out is Cheerfuljet (119lb), a three-time course and distance winner last term. The Caspar Fownes-trained five-year-old switched to the Sha Tin all-weather track and won his way into Class 2, but he failed at his first attempt in the grade on the dirt at the end of last season. He returns to the turf with Umberto Rispoli set to take his second ride aboard the Darci Brahma gelding.
“The way that he’d won the start before last time, you would think that he’d have no problems in Class 2 but he didn’t quite fire,” Rispoli said. “It does happen sometimes when horses go from Class 3 to Class 2. I don’t think you can judge him from one bad run.
“My main concern would be that there are a few horses in here that look further forward than him, that are already close to 100 per cent fit, while I thought from his trial that he might need the run. From gate seven, though, I would love to get into a trailing spot one-off and he should get his chance from there.”
The Big Wave Bay Handicap finishes the Happy Valley card at 10.55pm, with the opener, the Class 5 Stanley Handicap (1650m), set to begin proceedings at the city track for the season at 7.15pm.