The Lam Tei Handicap and Nam Sang Wai Handicap, both Class 4 contests run at Sha Tin on Sunday, will never rate a mention among the world’s great races.
For Michael Freedman, however, there were parallels between the pair of handicaps and one of the great races on the planet after the Australian scored his first wins as a Hong Kong trainer with Endearing and Silverfield respectively.
“It’s a big thrill – I said to Sam (Clipperton) when he came back aboard Endearing, it felt like winning a Melbourne Cup again,” said Freedman, who was involved in the preparation of five winners of “the race that stops a nation” while working for brother Lee.
“That is the pinnacle for any Australian trainer, but winning the first race, that matched the feeling, it was certainly a big thrill. It’s nice with only our fourth runner to get a winner at Sha Tin, it’s very pleasing.
"And to then add a second, it makes me think that we are starting to do things right in terms of our systems down at the Olympic Stables. It hasn’t been the easiest start, we had a couple of testing weeks there, but the staff have been great, my assistant Carol (Yu) has been terrific and we’re on our way now.”
Endearing (125lb) was fancied to give Freedman his much-anticipated first winner, with the Lonhro five-year-old sent out as the 2/1 favourite in the Lam Tei Handicap (1,200m).
After settling handy on the rails, Clipperton pulled Endearing out at the top of the straight and put the result beyond doubt passing the 150m, holding a length and a half margin over Spring Win (122lb) at the wire.
“I’ve found him a real pleasure to train, he’s been fairly trouble-free,” Freedman said. “We made a couple of subtle gear changes, we put a tongue tie on him and took the blinkers off. Sam’s done a lot of work on the horse so it’s great that he could win on him today. I think, on what I saw him do today too, I’d be hoping he could stretch out to 1400m and maybe even 1600m later on.”
Silverfield was Freedman’s first runner as a Hong Kong trainer on September 10th. It was not the handler’s original intention to run on Sunday’s card, with Silverfield being saved for next weekend’s National Day meeting, but the decision to front up paid dividends with the Clodovil gelding racing clear under Chad Schofield from a fore-of-midfield spot to record a two and a quarter length win eased down.
“I think he was a bit rusty first-up so I thought we’d go again today,” the trainer said. “Having some rain around helped, I think he appreciated being on a track that had just a little bit of give in it. And Chad’s ride was ideal, he tracked the speed and had him ready to go at the top of the straight.
Silverfield, Group 1-placed in France before he was purchased by owner Edmond Yue, was an acquisition from now-retired trainer Gary Ng. He did not race for almost three years before his Hong Kong debut in April 2016, but Freedman says the issues that had plagued the seven-year-old early in his career have not caused him any problems in recent times.
“Touch wood, he’s been great,” he said. “Obviously, Gary had him for a long time and he had some injuries early in his career here. However, he’s been sound since I’ve had him and he’s a pretty easy horse to train. He obviously arrived with high credentials, so the ability was always there, and hopefully he can continue to progress.”
Freedman was joined in preparing a double by Michael Chang, who won the Class 4 Hung Shui Kiu Handicap (1800m) with Je Pense and the Class 4 Ping Shan Handicap (1200m) with Star Superior.
Riding honours went to Schofield, who rode Je Pense for Chang, Silverfield for Freedman and then added Ricky Yiu’s Citron Spirit in the closer, the Class 2 Yuen Long Handicap (1400m).
“I am happy, today was the first day this season I’ve had a busy day,” Schofield said. “I had nine rides today whereas before that I’d only had two, three, four rides a meeting. But I feel like I’m riding well, I’ve got decent rides and I’m trying to make the most of them.”
The day’s trophy event, the Class 3 Pok Oi Cup Handicap (1200m), went to Super Fluke at his first run for Dennis Yip. The six-year-old saluted under a masterful rails-hugging ride from Brett Prebble, who landed his first win for the term.
“The horse had leg problems when he transferred to me,” Yip said. “Since then, though, he has got better and better, he had been working well and off his trackwork, I believed he could run a very good race. Throw in Brett’s brilliant ride and it all came together today.”
A race later, Prebble made it a double as Frankie Lor-trained Super Man (124lb) overhauled favourite Winning Vangogh (133lb) to take the Class 3 Tai Tong Handicap (1200m).
Racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night with an eight-race card. You can find all the Hong Kong racecards, previews, reports and results on The Irish Field website.