Drombeg Banner staked an unexpected Classic Mile claim in Sunday’s Class Three Lung Fu Shan Handicap (1,600m) restricted to four-year-olds, holding off $1.40 favourite Sweet Encounter to orchestrate a boilover at $33.
After assuming the front-running role that served him well across three victories in Ireland, Drombeg Banner was able to kick despite setting a willing tempo to finish half a length clear of the red-hot favourite in his second Hong Kong start.
“He needs to be on pace and he can lead. He’s a pretty one-paced horse. I was surprised that he wasn’t fast enough in the last race over 1,200m – he struggled to get in front – so I thought the next one we should go 1,400m,” Ng said.
“But as the schedule didn’t suit and they have the four-year-old race now, I took the gamble and I only found [jockey] Angus Chung [Yik-lai] once the entries came out. Ten pounds off a horse like that wasn’t bad.
“His rating will be around 74 or 75 and I think he will be high enough to get into [the Classic Mile on January 29], especially with winning form. I’m looking forward to seeing how far he can get.”
Drombeg Banner’s success was the first of a double for Chung, who also saluted with Sakewin, but the apprentice’s fruitful day in the saddle was tempered by a two-meeting ban, which he received for careless riding aboard Skyey Supreme.
The Jamie Richards-trained Sinba also strengthened his four-year-old series aspirations, with the Australian import taking out the Class Three Tsz Wan Shan Handicap (1,400m) at what was also his second start in the city.
Sinba saluted at 1,550m pre-import and raced twice at Group One level in Australia, finishing down the field in the Randwick Guineas (1,600m) and the Rosehill Guineas (2,000m).
“He’s a nice progressive horse who’s got a fair bit of upside, so hopefully he can continue to improve,” Richards said. “His rating is still a little bit low, so we’ll just have to see.”
After finishing eighth over 1,200m on his Hong Kong debut, Sinba enjoyed the step up to seven furlongs and let down nicely in the straight after an economical run under Karis Teetan.
Maia makes hay
He shook off a 10-week drought with his victory aboard Top Top Tea at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and Ruan Maia took things up several gears at Sha Tin on Sunday, landing his richest Hong Kong victory aboard Chancheng Prince.
The Brazilian jockey has formed a strong bond with Chancheng Prince and piloted the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained grey to victory for the fourth time in the Class One Caroline Hill Handicap (1,650m) on the all-weather track.
It was Maia’s first Class One victory in Hong Kong and usurped his Class Two victory aboard another Lui-trainer galloper – The Irishman – as his biggest win in the city.
“Yes, this is the first time I’ve won a Class One here and I’m very happy to keep the ride on this beautiful horse,” the Brazilian said. “Thanks so much to Francis and his assistant and all the stable.”
Chancheng Prince has worked his way from Griffin grade to a rating in the 90s with seven victories across 33 starts and his past four have all come under Maia over the extended dirt mile.
Maia attempted to position his mount in the one-one from gate seven but after he failed to settle, he took Chancheng Prince up outside leading pair Telecom Fighters and Kings Shield.
Lui admitted he was “a little bit worried” by the prospect of his charge travelling three wide around the home turn be he needn’t have been, with Chancheng Prince assuming control at the 200m and holding off Apache Pass by half a length.
“He likes the dirt very much,” Lui said. “Ruan knows him well. Before we always tried to ask him to take cover because he was still immature, he would run away, but now he is more mature and under control.”
Wong bangs home four
Ellis Wong is a Metro Legend in South Australia after the galloper of the same name was the final leg of the jockey’s first four-timer on Saturday.
Apprentice rider Wong, who is indentured to the family partnership of Gary Searle, Nichole Searle and Brianna Callanan, rode Wonderwomen, Getouttheway, Secret War and Metro Legend to wins during South Australia’s city meeting at Gawler.
Wong’s best-ever day on course – the 22-year-old had not posted more than a double at a meeting before his Saturday quartet – lifted him to 33 victories this season and into third place in South Australia’s jockeys’ premiership, trailing only senior riders Kayla Crowther (45) and Barend Vorster (40).
Of Hong Kong’s active roster, Alfred Chan Ka-Hei, Jerry Chau Chun-lok, Angus Chung Yik-lai, Matthew Poon Ming-fai and Victor Wong Chun gained experience in South Australia during their apprenticeships.
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