Second-season handler Pierre Ng Pang-chi moved two wins clear in the trainers’ premiership with his second double on the bounce at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
After an impressive debut campaign that netted 41 victories, Ng has produced almost a win a meeting through the first 17 fixtures of the 2023-24 season.
“The horses are running brilliantly. Hopefully, it stays that way,” Ng said after the successes of Spicy So Smart and Fortune Warrior took him to 16 victories and clear of nearest rival Danny Shum Chap-shing’s 14 wins.
After Spicy So Smart pinged the gates and led all the way to take out the card-opening Class Five Big Wave Bay Handicap (1,200m), Fortune Warrior adopted the same tactics on his way to justifying a plunge in the Class Four Middle Bay Handicap (1,000m).
Backed from $14 to $7 in the final two minutes of betting, Fortune Warrior was forced to work to find the lead and the rail from gate 12, but he produced enough late to reward his backers with a narrow result over the quick-finishing Super Fast Dragon.
“We didn’t expect that from that draw. In the early stages it was very harsh, but he maintained his effort until the last stride,” Ng said.
Mark Newnham moved to four wins in his maiden Hong Kong campaign thanks to the win of nine-year-old Right Honourable in the Class Five Deep Water Bay Handicap (1,650m).
“I’m pleased to get a win with him. He’s a very sound, healthy horse. He enjoys his job. I had a ride on him on Sunday morning, and he’s a terrific old horse. It gave me a good kick to see him win,” Newnham said.
“We’ve started to build a little bit of momentum now. I’ve got a few of the newer horses coming up and trialling shortly, so as long as we build a bank with these ones, hopefully, the second half of the season, the new horses will come through.”
There was a golf flavour at Happy Valley on the eve of the first Hong Kong Open since 2020, but while Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Nice Birdie failed to wow the crowd – finishing fifth behind Right Honourable – 2022 Open Championship winner Cameron Smith and his famous mullet turned heads.
Joined on course by Talor Gooch, Harold Varner III and 2020 Hong Kong Open winner Wade Ormsby, Smith’s presence was not lost on star Australian jockey – and avid golfer – Zac Purton.
After sneaking a photo with Smith and Ormsby in the silks of A Americ Te Specso ahead of the sixth race, Purton proceeded to salute aboard the John Size-trained $2.4 favourite in the first section of the Class Four Chung Hom Kok Handicap (1,200m).
Purton finished the night with that one victory but went agonisingly close to a second aboard David Hayes’ Strongest Boy, who succumbed to one of the more impressive winning performances of the evening.
A long last for much of the Class Four Community Chest Cup (1,650m) and still at the back of the field upon straightening, David Hall’s Gallant Hero cut a swathe through the field under Brenton Avdulla to snare his fourth win from his past five starts.
“He had a tough barrier and was going to be in a tricky position, so there was one ingredient he needed to have a chance in the race, and that was speed,” Hall said of Gallant Hero’s chances from gate 12 in a contest in which the first 850m was run 1.49 seconds quicker than standard.
“The early sectionals set it up for him to have his normal strong finish, and luckily enough, he got the run at the right time and got there on the line.”
Meanwhile, Size’s exciting three-year-old Waipiro – who took out the Group Three Hampton Court Stakes (2,000m) at Royal Ascot in June – was retired on Wednesday after sustaining a tendon injury last month.
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