Local talent is a hot button issue in Hong Kong racing and homegrown heroes were firmly in the spotlight at Happy Valley on Thursday night as rookie handler Jimmy Ting snared a double to end the twelfth meeting of the season with a remarkable ten winners from just 35 runners.
It hardly takes a maths professor to conclude that is a mighty impressive strike rate, but those bare facts mask a deeper trend that is perhaps even more significant as far as local riders are concerned.
All bar five of Ting’s runners have been partnered by homegrown jockeys - a remarkable statistic in an era when foreign stars dominate - and the fact that Ting is delivering on a pledge made when awarded his licence in June wasn’t lost on Keith Yeung after Fine With Me (115lb) repelled a whirlwind finish from Lucky Shiny Day (111lb) in the Australian Turf Club Trophy (1650m).
“It’s so rare to see a good young trainer who supports us local guys consistently like Jimmy does and we are very grateful for that,” he said.
“The thing that impresses me most about him is that he’s incredibly patient and skilful at assessing just what every horse needs. He’s made an amazing start and I really hope we can continue to rise together."
Finding the key to horses who have struggled for other yards is vital to any new handler’s progress and Holy Unicorn, who joined Ting this summer with a record of 0-27, made it two from two for his new barn with a narrow success in R4 under Matthew Chadwick.
Chadwick echoed Yeung’s comments about Ting’s patience by saying “he just listens to the horse,” while the trainer himself reports that his fast start is predictably leading to increased support from owners.
“We have 56 horses at the moment with a few more to come next month,” he said. “Holy Unicorn doesn’t show any dash if he isn’t near the lead but he gets on well with Matthew and this is an exciting time, for sure.”
Zac Purton had to bide his time as the local lads made hay in the first part of the evening but his patience was rewarded as Red Warrior and Country Star recorded emphatic successes in R7 and R8.
Red Warrior looks a highly progressive recruit by defying stall 12 in fine style in R7
Red Warrior defied stall 12 in the style of a typical John Size improver in the Roselle Handicap (1650m), while stablemate Country Star was sent off the hottest favourite of the night in the closing Waratah Handicap (1200m) and never looked like disappointing his followers.
John Moore has had to be even more patient at the Valley in recent months but Storm Signal was well supported for R6 and relished the return to 1000m under Douglas Whyte.
Saddling his first Valley scorer since April, Moore praised Whyte for instigating the drop to the minimum trip and added that Storm Signal will return to the city venue in ten days’ time.
Junzi’s powerful finish provides the key to success from So’s new base
They say moving into a new home can be stressful but trainer Chris So is very happy to have switched bases and celebrated with his first runner from a new yard when Junzi (120lb) produced a relentless charge to pick the pocket of Very Rich Man (126lb) right on the line in the Aster Handicap (R1).
So has moved just a few doors away to the yard formerly occupied by Almond Lee and the switch paid an immediate dividend thanks to an ultra-cool drive from the ever-hungry Alberto Sanna.
The Italian admits a quiet spell which included losing a race in the stewards’ room has made him “sad for the last few weeks” but his appetite for success is keener than ever and his faith that even better lies ahead remains unshakeable.
“I feel that maybe I haven’t got what I have deserved recently and perhaps that is because I am quiet and not cool or quirky,” he said.
“But I never lose confidence because I know how hard I work. This is where I want to be and I truly believe that one day I can become one of the top riders in Hong Kong.”
Matthew Poon is another rider who has been no stranger to the stewards of late but his 5lb claim remains a useful asset and Split Of A Second became the latest horse to capitalise with a willing success in R2.
Winning trainer Peter Ho feels Split Of A Second has become more focussed with maturity and is hoping for further improvement as he continues to strengthen.
Poon has continued to ride winners as his apprentice claim has been reduced and Victor Wong looks poised to follow suit after seeing his 10lb claim reduced to seven with a confident front-running ride aboard Sichuan Boss in R3.
Winning handler Tony Millard felt that Wong’s pace judgement made a big difference when things got tight close home and the South African is setting a fair pace of his own at present as this eleventh success ensured he ended the night one winner ahead of Ting atop the trainers’ table.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday when a high-class programme will feature a string of exceptional performers contesting the Premier Bowl (1200m) and the Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m).