David Hall continued his bumper June at Sha Tin on Saturday, with the 57-year-old landing a double and declaring his stable is better off after working through a mid-season exodus.
Hall’s struggles were well documented as a string of gallopers followed Joyful Fortune out the door after the one-time boom sprinter was transferred to Tony Cruz in December, with the Australian only managing 12 winners in a five-month stretch as his horse numbers dwindled.
Those troubles are in the rear-view mirror, however, with Victory Scholars and Beluga taking Hall to seven winners in June as he enjoys his biggest month of the season.
“Obviously there was a bit of trouble mid-season so we’ve worked through that and we’re probably better for it, actually,” he said.
“It’s good to rack a few up and get everyone’s confidence back, get the stable in the right frame of mind and look forward to next year with a few more new horses.
“It was obviously a difficult group [of owners] that left and it wasn’t easy but going forward it’s a much more enjoyable experience for everybody and putting winners on the board is one way to make it even better.”
Beluga landed his third win of the season in the Class Three Mount Nicholson Handicap (1,400m), continuing a remarkable run that has seen the four-year-old win every time he has drawn a single-figure barrier.
The son of Tavistock’s four victories have come from gates five, one, nine and five, while he has been hit with barrier 10 or worse in his other eight starts for five placings.
“As everyone knows, he’s had a tough year with the barriers,” Hall said. “I was a bit nervous when the gates came out and I was very happy to see him have a better draw today even though he still had a little bit of work to do from the start. It was good to see him get the job done.”
Stepping back from 1,800m to his preferred distance, Beluga travelled one-out, one-back under Zac Purton before proving too strong in the straight to finish three-quarters of a length clear of Leap Of Faith, with Horsesain Bolt third.
“He’s by Tavistock and you sort of think they’re going to run 2,000m but he’s out of a Written Tycoon mare so he might have too much brilliance to be staying. [In] the new season we might try him again at the right time,” Hall said of Beluga, whose rating will be around 80 after Saturday’s win.
“He’s always looked like he could get to Class Two and under the right circumstances I think
The step up to 1,400m proved just the tonic for Victory Scholars, with the three-year-old breaking his maiden at start five in the Class Four Shek Nga Shan Handicap.
After a near-miss when running second behind Gluck Racer on debut, Victory Scholars was
competitive in his next three starts – including another runner-up result, this time behind the John Size-trained Drops Of God – before stepping up from six furlongs to seven for Saturday’s contest.
“We’ve always had the opinion he’s a 1,400m-1,600m horse and he probably surprised a little bit how he sprinted first-up so we kept him at 1,200m,” Hall said.
“He was just a bit unlucky he ran into a bullet of John’s and then the other day they sort of sat up a little bit around the bend and sprinted home and he got left a bit flat-footed so we knew he was looking for the 1,400m.”
Victory Scholars led throughout from barrier six under Purton, holding off Brilliant China, Pure Legend and Dragon Fortune by a neck, and Hall was pleased to see the horse continue his education.
“He probably wasn’t super impressive today, He’s a big elephant of a horse, he’s a big dumbo – he just doesn’t know what his job is yet.
“I think he’s got a little bit more to offer but he’s just got to learn his craft and know how to be a competitive racehorse. He’ll take a bit of confidence out of that win, have a bit of a break and come back next year.”