Tony Cruz celebrated his first treble of the season at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and his apprentice Angus Chung Yik-lai was the main beneficiary, with the 26-year-old snaring his maiden double at the city circuit.
After Cruz had combined with Hugh Bowman to salute with Jack Win, rookie rider Chung delivered for his master aboard Viva Popcorn and Winning Dragon to secure just the third brace of his young career.
“It feels great. I always struggled a bit at Happy Valley in the first few months. My boss, Mr Cruz, gave me some instruction after that time and helped me improve,” said Chung, who has 25 wins for the season, but only five at the Valley.
“It’s quite a tricky track. It’s still quite difficult for me at this stage, but I’m learning as quickly as I can.”
It was the ride aboard $31 outsider Winning Dragon in the Class Three Selkirk Handicap (1,650m) that most impressed Cruz, with Chung settling Winning Dragon outside early leader Red Majesty from gate 12 and ensuring he had enough in the tank late to hold off favourite Helene Feeling by half a length.
“I think this kid’s got ability. Angus rode a perfect race. He got a good position,” Cruz said. “The draw wasn’t good, but he’s a Happy Valley horse. Jump fast, be handy and rate him.”
The Zac Purton-Jamie Richards combination also joined forces for a double, winning first with Happy United in the second section of the Class Four Renfrew Handicap (1,200m) before Hoss continued his strong form with victory in the Class Three St George’s Challenge Cup (1,200m).
Hoss was saluting in Class Three for the first time, and the four-year-old has now won three of his past four starts.
“He’s been running really consistently, he’s a horse that’s on the way up and he got the job done. There was a little heart flutter there halfway down when [Party Warrior] poked through, but he’s going well,” Richards said after moving to 30 wins for the campaign and up to 11th in the premiership.
“Things are ticking along well. I think we’re going to run out of horses a little bit at the end of the season, but we’ve just got to be patient and wait for the new ones to arrive.”
It was Happy French Wednesday in the beer garden at the midweek meeting, and as revellers got a little taste of the country’s cuisine and culture, Frenchman Antoine Hamelin gave them something to cheer about with his first victory since March.
After going 44 rides since his last victory, Hamelin piloted John Size-trained $7 chance A Americ Te Specso home in the first section of the Renfrew Handicap to move to 14 wins for the season.
“He was a nice chance, one of the favourites and when you have them on your hands, it makes your life easier,” Hamelin said.
“We had a good draw, everything went smoothly and on the home turn, I just had to come out and ask him. My horse responded really well. He fought to the end, so that’s nice.”
Bowman went onto become the other rider to land a brace, winning the second section of the Class Three Wiltshire Handicap (1,200m) aboard Danny Shum Chap-shing’s progressive gelding Nordic Dragon to close out the card.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m) third placegetter Wellington has been entered for the Group One Platinum Jubilee Stakes over the straight 1,200m during the Royal Ascot carnival in late June.
It was also confirmed on Wednesday the Tony Millard-trained Panfield holds an entry for an overseas contest, the Group One Takarazuka Kinen (2,200m) at Hanshin in Japan on June 25.
The 114-rated six-year-old lines up in Sunday’s Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup
(2,400m) at Sha Tin, his first start since running fifth in February’s Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m).
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