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Ricky Yiu ‘optimistic’ he’ll take another Mighty Stride up trainers’ premiership ladder

Hong Kong’s hottest trainer, Ricky Yiu Poon-fai, has made mighty strides up the premiership ladder this year, and the handler’s squad for Sunday’s Sha Tin programme could continue his surge into contention.

Yiu’s 66 starters in 2023 have produced 10 winners to see the 2019-20 champion trainer move from the middle of the pack to fifth, his 27 victories putting him only one win away from a spot on the podium and just six wins behind leader John Size.

Unquestionably, Class Three Yau Oi Handicap (1,200m) runner Mighty Stride represents Yiu’s best chance of celebrating a winner for the fifth meeting in a row as one of this season’s unluckiest losers looks to avenge his last-start loss at Sha Tin on January 8.

Badly held up for a considerable distance – from before the 700m to after the 200m – when fading on-speed youngster Superb Capitalist blocked his path to eventual winner Sakewin, Mighty Stride’s one-and-a-half length defeat was a brutal watch for favourite punters.

Whereas Mighty Stride meets Dragon’s Luck and Phoenix Light two pounds worse than when they met four weeks ago, a combination of Jockey Club penalties and rider changes means he reopposes Sakewin 16 pounds better.

Sakewin’s rating rose six pounds more than that of Mighty Stride following their quinella, and Antoine Hamelin takes over from 10-pound claimer Angus Chung Yik-lai on the last-start winner.

Hugh Bowman picks up the ride aboard Mighty Stride from Derek Leung Ka-chun, who pays the price for his ride last month.

Furthermore, the experienced galloper whom Mighty Stride beat on his debut appearance, Super Sunny Sing, has won each of his three subsequent starts since he tasted defeat in that November 20 race.

Yiu is confident Mighty Stride will make it three wins from four starts this weekend, even though the four-year-old son of Australian sprinter Rich Enuff had a minor setback during his time at Conghua.

“He banged himself on his head, right between his ears,” Yiu said. “He needed a few stitches, but the incident only held him up for a couple of days and there was no problem with his legs. I’m optimistic.”

Perhaps the biggest danger to Mighty Stride might come from Not Usual Star, who ran on strongly to win a Class Three sprint on January 15 on what was his second post-import outing for Chris So Wai-yin.

As well as Mighty Stride, Yiu takes Darci Joy, Mach Ten, Diamond Flare, Sure Joyful, Chilli Baba, Excellent Fighter and Powerful Wings to the races, with Diamond Flare making his Hong Kong bow, Chilli Baba hoping to maintain his unbeaten record and Excellent Fighter attempting to bounce back after failing to justify favouritism on his second start.

Diamond Flare brings modest form from regional tracks in New South Wales to Hong Kong. However, Yiu is more bullish about Chilli Baba and Excellent Fighter, both of whom he bought from Australian sales as yearlings.

“He keeps improving,” Yiu said of Chilli Baba, whom he purchased for A$155,000 (HK$870,000) in 2021. “It was a bit of a fluke he won over 1,000m last time because he needs further. He steps up to 1,200m.

“Excellent Fighter is another youngster on his way up. The stock in my stable is good,” added Yiu, who spent A$190,000 (HK$1.06 million) on the galloper aboard whom Jye McNeil triumphed on December 18.

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