TRAINER Me Tsui dominated proceedings at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, May 16th) as he won four of the first five races on a night where jockey Zac Purton also brought up his century of victories for the term with a double.
Tsui scored his second four-timer of the season and just his second Happy Valley quartet ever with the wins of Starlit Knight, Dragon Pioneer, Enormous Honour and Good For You. Notably, all four were partnered by different jockeys.
“I didn’t think I could get more than one or two wins tonight, so four is a big achievement for my stable,” Tsui said.
The night’s feature, the Class 3 St George’s Challenge Cup Handicap (1000m), went to the Tsui-trained Dragon Pioneer. Ridden by Joao Moreira, the Zoffany four-year-old was able to lead all the way for a length and a half triumph, his first in Hong Kong.
“The draw helped him a lot, having gate two made a difference,” the trainer said. “I’d put the blinkers on him for a few starts but he got too keen on the lead. I took the blinkers off and put on the hood and that was the trick. Also, Joao has great hands and you saw that here.”
Class 4 Lancashire Handicap (1650m) winner Enormous Honour had finished fourth at his last start on the Sha Tin all-weather track in a remarkable effort, given that his jockey that day, Alberto Sanna, dislocated his shoulder in the concluding stages.
“Last start, I’m not sure how Alberto still managed to finish fourth, even with his shoulder injury,” Tsui said. “I knew then that the horse was going well. Unfortunately, he did not ride tonight, but Neil Callan had won aboard the horse before and he seemed to have the key to him again tonight. He did surprise me by winning though.”
Good For You, a winner in Class 5 at the start of last season, has now progressed into Class 3 territory after his victory in the second section of the Class 4 Dorset Handicap (1200m). Five-pound claimer Jack Wong was the pilot.
“Jack did a very good job there,” Tsui said. “At the 300m, he had a choice to go outside or inside; he went inside. He took the risk. If he had gone outside, I don’t think he would have caught the leader and I wouldn’t have complained – it still would have been a good ride. Going back to the inside though was a great move and it shows the development Jack has made.”
In fact, Wong took both sections of the Dorset Handicap; earlier in the night, he produced a canny front-running ride on the Caspar Fownes-trained Nice Fandango to snare the first section.
The opener, the Class 5 Cornwall Handicap (1650m), went to Tsui’s Starlit Knight. Purton steered the Fath five-year-old, a Listed winner in Western Australia pre-import, to an easy three-length score.
“He had disappointed me when he arrived last season,” Tsui said. “He started on a high rating (77), but maybe that was just too high for him. Now he’s acclimatised and that was a nice win. I think he can win again up in Class 4 now that he has some confidence.”
Purton has eyes on second title after reaching 100
Starlit Knight took Purton to 99 wins for the season, and before the night was out, he had cracked the triple-figure barrier after taking the Class 3 Norfolk Handicap (1200m) aboard Super Hoppy. It was the Captain Sonador gelding’s first start for trainer Danny Shum.
“I’ve had some luck with the sire – Seasons Bloom is the best of them anywhere I think – so I’m grateful to the owners for giving me the chance with Super Hoppy,” Shum said. “He’s got plenty of talent, I think he’s better than a Class 3 horse and hopefully in time he can show that.
“It was great to give Zac his 100th win, that was his 16th win for me this season and he has asked me to give him at least five more so that was one towards that!”
Purton, who took only 655 races to reach 100 wins this season compared to 675 in his premiership-winning season in 2013/14 and 761 last term, now sits eight wins adrift of Moreira in the title race.
“It’s nice to get to 100 wins,” Purton said. “It was my target at the start of the season. It’s a good number to reach, because it means you’ve had a pretty successful season, so I’m happy. In one respect, it’s now job done, but in another respect, it just means there’s another target to work towards.”
The Class 3 Suffolk Handicap (1800m) was won by the David Hall-trained Victory Boys, who converted his four placings from eight starts this season into an overdue win. The son of Mastercraftsman was produced centre track by Brett Prebble, racing to a half-length win.
“Like my stable this season, he hasn’t always had luck go his way in his races – and I thought that might be the case again tonight when he had a few things go wrong mid-race,” Hall said. “He is so honest though and that shone through, because it’s difficult to win a race like that with top-weight when things go wrong.
“I’ve always thought he had the potential to win a Class 2 with a light weight, he’ll get his chance again now so let’s see.”
The nightcap, the Class 3 Warwick Handicap (1650m), was won by the Ricky Yiu-trained Outlawed with Chad Schofield in the saddle.
Racing returns to Sha Tin on Sunday (20 May) for a 10-race card.