Over 18 months after icing a blistering debut campaign with a sixth victory, Champion’s Way has finally returned to the winner’s circle after saluting in the Group Three Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m).
The John Size-trained five-year-old was handed a saloon passage under Karis Teetan at Sha Tin on Friday to snare a second career Group success to go with his Lion Rock Trophy win in June 2019.
“I thought the horse was in very good condition today, he had a good preparation and it is nice to have the horse back in the winner’s box,” Teetan said.
Champion’s Way was the beneficiary of some carnage at the top of the straight, sneaking up the rail from the back of the pack while over half the field were involved in a skirmish after Vincent Ho Chak-yiu tried to push out aboard Winning Dreamer.
It was a welcome victory for Teetan, who teamed up with Champion’s Way for the first time since last year’s Classic Mile, where the Mauritian partnered the gelding into third before being unseated by Ryan Moore for the Classic Cup.
After an uncharacteristically quiet December which netted only three winners, Teetan was
happy to kick off 2021 on a winning note.
“That’s Hong Kong racing, you have your ups and downs. I had a couple of suspensions in December and that knocked me back a little bit so it’s nice to pick up a Group race to start the new year,” the jockey said.
After surging through the grades in his first season with six wins and a second – culminating with his Group Three win in the Lion Rock Trophy – Champion’s Way has been consistent without winning since.
The son of Hinchinbrook placed in the first two legs of last year’s four-year-old series before failing in the Derby and finished within two lengths of Golden Sixty earlier this season, but Size is under no illusion as to where his charge sits in the pecking order.
“He’s found Class One racing and Group racing a little bit difficult but today the circumstances suited him – the running of the race and the track condition – so he was able to do his best,” Size said, adding he opted to bypass the Hong Kong International Races because he believes Group One racing is “too strong for him”.
The race also served to provide some further clarity around this year’s Classic Series, which kicks off with the Classic Mile on January 24.
Sky Darci and Winning Dreamer both carried Classic Mile aspirations into the race but only one left with them intact, with Sky Darci running on strongly for second.
“I’m very happy, he just got absolutely poleaxed on the corner. It’s not very nice when that happens so let’s hope he pulls up all right because that hit him really hard,” trainer Caspar Fownes said.
“Obviously you give up the rail just to do the right thing and give the horse a chance and the winner snuck up and had everything go his way.
“Going forward he’s where I want him to be, we just wanted him to relax today and hit the line ready for the series.
“He’s been taught to race and give himself every possible chance and off that he’s going to be first three in all the races the way he’s going.”
The Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained Winning Dreamer was stepping out over 1,400m for the first time as he looked to stretch his unbeaten streak to seven, but finished over five lengths back in sixth and Lor confirmed he will skip the four-year-old series in preference of sprinting trips.
“I think we’ll go back to 1,200m, it should be better for him,” Lor said of the galloper, who was found to have blood in his trachea post-race.