Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s Voyage Warrior heads to Happy Valley on Wednesday night looking to arrest a ratings slide that has spanned 13 races across more than 12 months and leaves the
six-year-old on a mark 21 points below his peak of 120.
The gelded son of Declaration Of War rocketed from a rating of 105 to 120 with victory in the Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m) in April last year, a race in which he left the likes of Hot King Prawn, Mr Stunning and D B Pin in his wake to salute as a $24 chance.
Voyage Warrior has since competed four times at the top level for a best return of fourth – first in January’s Centenary Sprint Cup when he was two lengths behind Hot King Prawn and then in April’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize – as well as lining up in a further seven Group contests and four Class Ones.
He is yet to place again since his Sprint Cup victory and Yiu has proven he is more than willing to experiment with his charge to help him rediscover something even close to his best. After Group failures over five and six furlongs to begin the 2021-22 campaign, Voyage Warrior stepped down to Class One and up to 1,400m – only his second career run over seven furlongs – and showed enough in a two-and-three-quarter-length seventh behind Lucky Express in the Panasonic Cup to prompt Yiu to run him over a mile for the first time.
The result was a five-length 10th behind Silver Express in the Class One Chevalier Cup on November 28, an effort that sent Yiu back to the drawing board and saw him come up with Wednesday night’s Class Two Fort Handicap (1,000m) as his galloper’s next task.
It will be Voyage Warrior’s first appearance at the tight-turning city circuit and first run in Class Two since February last year, however he returns to a trip he has had plenty of success at in the past.
The speedster made a barnstorming start to his career down the Sha Tin straight, winning three times from four starts, all at $1.50 or less, as he climbed his way through the grades and into Class Two. In Class Two Voyage Warrior has won one of his two 1,000m starts, with that victory seeing him storm to a three-length win under Joao Moreira as a $3.30 favourite on New Year’s Day last year.
On that occasion Voyage Warrior carried 125 pounds and this time around he will lump 128 thanks to Victor Wong Chun’s five-pound claim, with the pair to jump from gate seven. The field features a string of Valley short-track specialists, with Kurpany, We The South, Keep You Warm and Harmony Fire among those boasting multiple victories at the course and
Wong could find himself in a speed battle aboard Voyage Warrior in a hot race but with We The South and Keep You Warm also likely to be pushing forward from lower draws, it may be in his best interests to take a sit. Harry Bentley lands biggest Hong Kong win as Beauty Generation’s record tumbles The 29-year-old boots Preciousship to victory in the Class One Sha Tin Mile Trophy on Harry Bentley pumps his fist as he wins aboard Preciousship at Sha Tin on Sunday. Photos: Kenneth Chan
Harry Bentley snared his biggest Hong Kong winner as Preciousship smashed Beauty Generation’s track record in the Class One Sha Tin Mile Trophy on Sunday afternoon.
At the final Sha Tin meeting of the season, Preciousship stopped the clock at 1:32.24 to slice .40 of a second off the mark the eight-time Group One winner set in 2018 and it was Bentley’s first win above Class Three level.
“It’s a fantastic achievement and I’m really pleased to have won a race of this prestige. I hear it’s in record time as well which is quite something,” the 29-year-old said. “My race went incredibly smoothly with a very even gallop and he was able to quicken up the pace.” It was Bentley’s fourth winner since beginning his Hong Kong career in April and it’s something he hopes will help springboard him into next season. “Of late obviously I’ve been getting some better horses and being more in the frame, which is fantastic,” he said. “To be able to get one of these races over the line is really great. I’ve had a couple of near misses in Class Two which has been a bit frustrating but this makes up for it.”
Bentley positioned the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Preciousship just forward of midfield on the rail and stayed on the fence until 300m from home before easing out from behind leader The Rock and hitting the front in the final 100m.
“I’m very appreciative to Ricky Yiu, he’s given me my most support since I’ve been here in Hong Kong and it’s my first win for him. To repay his faith is great,” Bentley said.
“Obviously the ground is fast with the weather we’ve been having the last couple of weeks. It is quick ground and that’s probably some of the reason [he broke the record] but also he’s a good quality horse and the fact he’s only carrying 116 [pounds] was obviously a major
advantage for him.”
Yiu has used Bentley more than any other trainer, with the pair combining 21 times, and the veteran is confident there are bigger and better things ahead for the jockey. “Harry did a good job. He’s still learning and he’ll be an even better jockey next season,” Yiu said, adding that he was shocked when he saw the clock after Preciousship’s victory. “I was so surprised but the track condition is on the firm side and the tempo suited my horse.
“This horse is half a class better because he was carrying a light weight and he’s a small horse, but he’s got a massive heart. The good draw helped, the tempo helped and the firm track helped.”
The result completed a double for Yiu after Super Mission saluted in the Class Four Big Profit Handicap (1,400m), taking last season’s champion trainer to 33 wins for the term ahead of Wednesday night’s season finale at Happy Valley.