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Ricky Yiu continues strong start to 2022 with a double, Zac Purton returns a winner

Ricky Yiu Poon-fai continued his strong start to 2022 at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, snaring a double thanks to victories from King’s Trooper and Off The Reel.

Yiu now has five winners from the first four meetings of the year and the 2019-20 champion trainer moved into the top 10 in the race for this season’s title as he continues to build momentum.

“I’m very happy with the stable strength. Coming to the middle of the season, a lot of the horses are picking up gradually. Most of them are in good form,” said Yiu, who now has 16 winners for the term.

King’s Trooper saluted for the first time in well over two years in the Class Five Wang Tau Hom Handicap (1,200m), with the six-year-old grabbing the Jimmy Ting Koon-ho-trained Cigar Buddies in the final strides to win under Ruan Maia.

“This horse has had a lot of problems. Tonight the jockey gave him a perfect ride. He just let him settle in the first half of the race and he was able to relax. It was good to see,” Yiu said.

Off The Reel only broke his maiden at start 11 in November but now has two victories from his past three starts after getting the chocolates under Derek Leung Ka-chun in the Class Four To Kwa Wan Handicap (1,650m).

“He’s very lightly raced, he’s a four-year-old by Dundeel and he’s improving out of sight,” Yiu said.

“This is the first horse by Dundeel I have ever trained and I’m not really impressed by him. He is a very difficult horse to train, he pulls like a train in the morning.”

Much of the hype in the build-up to the midweek meeting was focused on the return of Zac Purton from injury and the resumption of his rivalry with Joao Moreira.

The star Australian had to bide his time but he struck in the final race on the card, taking out the Class Three Lok Fu Handicap (1,650m) aboard Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Cheerful Days to trim Moreira’s lead in the jockeys’ premiership to eight after the Brazilian went winless.

“I feel good, I feel better than I thought I was going to feel. Fitness-wise I feel pretty good and injury-wise I feel pretty good,” Purton said after his 50th winner of the term.

Leung was the only jockey with multiple winners, with his victory aboard Off The Reel the second of a running double after he snagged the second section of the Class Four Ma Tau Wai Handicap (1,200m) aboard Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Prance Dragon.

“The key was at the start. Derek was able to move onto the rails before the turn [from gate 10] and we had the chance to be closer in the run,” Yung said.

“The horse has got ability but he has got his health issues. The stable has done a good job and it’s very rewarding to see this win.”

Lui was the other trainer to land a double, also saluting with second-starter Scotch Tycoon, while South African Group Three winner Super Dobbin broke his Hong Kong maiden at start 15 in the Class Three Kowloon Tsai Handicap (1,200m), saluting under Antoine Hamelin.

Trainer Tony Millard admitted it has taken the five-year-old quite some time to acclimatise to life in his new home after undergoing the lengthy quarantine process that horses from South Africa face before they can come into Hong Kong.

Championship-leading trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen hit the board thanks to Smart Idea’s success in the first section of the Ma Tau Wai Handicap, while John Size struck in the very next event – the Class Three Kowloon City Handicap (1,000m) – with Special M to ensure Lor’s lead at the top of the table remains at two.

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