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Mark Newnham shows skill and repays owner with first Sha Tin winners

Mark Newnham trained his first Sha Tin winners in back-to-back races on Wednesday night’s all-dirt card, demonstrating his exceptional horsemanship with All Is Ready’s win and rewarding one of his staunchest supporters with Mission Bravo’s victory.

South African jockey Luke Ferraris was aboard Class Five Tsim Mei Fung Handicap (1,200m) winner All Is Ready and Class Four Tiu Yue Yung Handicap (1,650m) victor Mission Bravo for Newnham as the Australian handler lifted himself off the bottom of the early trainers’ standings in his rookie campaign.

All Is Ready’s only previous win came in a Happy Valley mile race, and his only previous dirt run resulted in a well-beaten 12th of 14 over the same trip, but those statistics did not deter Newnham from trusting his instincts and entering the former Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-prepared

galloper in Wednesday night’s first sprint on the all-weather circuit.

Newnham said a combination of All Is Ready’s dirt trial performances, especially his September 5 heat victory, and the feel the Super One gelding gave him in recent all-weather trackwork sessions were the primary reasons behind his programming decision.

“That’s the reason we decided to stick to a dirt programme with him,” Newnham said. “He was a little unlucky in his first run of the season [on turf], but we had this race in mind all the way through.

“He’s a one-time winner at Happy Valley over 1,650m, but we think he’s probably better suited to shorter trips on the all-weather. It shows a little bit more dimension to him than his turf form.

“I rode him in his final gallop on Sunday morning, and I was really happy with him going to the races. For me and the way I’m training him, I’ll be keeping him at 1,200m or 1,400m. Combined with his pedigree, that’s probably where he’s best suited.”

Typhoon Koinu scuppered Newnham’s plan for Mission Bravo to have his second-up run at Sha Tin on October 8, but the reunited pair – the trainer prepared the galloper for his first four starts, the last of which was a four-length Hawkesbury win – made it worth the wait for the members of Paul Cheng Wing-bor’s Alright Racing Syndicate.

“The weather delayed us winning a couple of weeks ago, but thankfully, everything worked out tonight,” Newnham said. “To win with this horse is special because I trained him in Australia, and Paul Cheng supported me seven years ago when I started training right until I came here.

“Luke summed up the situation really well. He got the horse to relax, and he got him to fight hard. It’s been a good night. The team is working hard at home, so it’s satisfying to get a double.”

Punters brown-lamped one of Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s three runners in Wednesday night’s feature event, the Class Two Hebe Hill Handicap (1,650m), and the late support for All For St Paul’s was on the money as the $13 chance grabbed the lead from Telecom Fighters in the early stages and never let it go.

Away from the track, Tony Cruz paid tribute to the late Howard Liang Yum-shing following the passing of the high-profile owner whose California-prefixed stars include 2011 and 2012 Group One Hong Kong Cup champion California Memory and last season’s Group One Hong Kong Mile hero, California Spangle.

“It’s a very sad day for me,” Cruz said. “The Liang family has supported me throughout my racing life, and they’ve been such a popular racing family because of the amount of success they’ve had.

“I remember when Howard did the draw for the 2011 Hong Kong Cup. He drew number one for California Memory. The following year, he drew number one again. I said, ‘Howard, how lucky can you get?’

“So much success we enjoyed together; so much joy and happiness. Howard was a generous man with a great heart. I miss him very much.”

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