Premiership leader Ricky Yiu’s take on his title chances could be described as positive yet pragmatic after he secured his 31st win of the campaign at Sha Tin yesterday afternoon (Sunday, 5 January).
“It’s a bit early, we haven’t even reached half-way yet,” he said sagely, following Encore Boy’s win in the Hoi Ping Handicap (1200m). “The chance is there for me this season,” he admitted and then added, “I’ll try my guts out and go for it!”
Whether or not Yiu has enough ammunition to maintain his momentum through to 15 July, the experienced handler nonetheless sits in a solid pole position at the turn of the year. His 30 wins exiting Wednesday’s 1 January fixture is a tally bettered by only one subsequent champion trainer in the past 10 seasons: John Size had 31 wins at the same stage before going on to bag the 2017/18 championship with a total of 87.
Yiu, licensed since 1995, enjoyed his best season in 2010/11 when he racked up 49 wins. “I think I have a good enough string, they’re in good health so if they hold their form maybe we can still have a chance at the end of the season,” he said.
Yiu credits the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s facility at Conghua with aiding his hot streak. “Since I’ve had the chance to train at Conghua, I’ve benefited for it,” he said.
“I sent Encore Boy back there after his last run, this horse loves it there. The horses are turned out, they put on weight, they’re mentally happier and they’re more relaxed – the horses like the environment. The busy hour here (Sha Tin) in the morning, it’s so busy they get wound up, but over there it’s quiet and they have a lot of space, they just walk around relaxed.”
Encore Boy returned at 20/1 under Silvestre de Sousa for his second win in four starts this term, all on the Sha Tin all-weather track.
“If we had a different rating for turf and dirt, I think his dirt rating would be 10 points more than on the turf,” Yiu said. “He’s so honest and the jockey knows him now since his last start and I said to him, the quicker they go the better – when this horse kicks on the dirt he finds a second gear.”