Mega Heart brings relief to trainer4
Michael Chang avoids the first 'strike' by recording the required 16-win tally for a Hong Kong season
Mega Heart on Wednesday night at Sha Tin delivered an important 16th win of the campaign for trainer Michael Chang.
"See you next season!" the popular handler quipped, after reaching the number required to avoid a first "strike" in the Hong Kong Jockey Club's three-and-you're-out system.
Chang hit the magic number with eight fixtures in hand.
The only Hong Kong trainer to saddle a winner in the United States - a Group 1 at that, thanks to Rich Tapestry's Santa Anita Sprint Championship - Chang has had a lean time in recent seasons. But you wouldn't know it from his mellow demeanour.
"If I make it, I make it. If I can't make it, I can't," he said.
"I've always done the job properly and I get the best out of what I have. I would like to have more winners but the horses just don't have the ability - I try my best."
Mega Heart's success was achieved at odds of 21-1 but that price did not reflect Chang's level of confidence.
"I expected him to run a good race," he said.
"At the start of the season, he carried big weights and was only beaten two or three lengths and now he's dropped down the handicap.
"I thought the dirt track would suit him, and, off a fast pace, he was always going to be coming at them in the finish."
Jockey Keith Yeung drove the six-year-old through a deep-closing stretch run to grab the spoils in the final strides from runner-up Simply Big.
Ugly Warrior took the evening's quality contest, the Class 2 Butterfly Bay Handicap over 1,200m.
Jockey Karis Teetan positioned the Me Tsui-trained galloper in the front pair and kicked upon straightening for home.
The four-year-old was all out with 200m to race but held on to beat Raging Blitzkrieg by 3/4 lengths, taking his career tally to six from 11.
"Last time things didn't go his way but Me had him spot on for today and last week he trialled really good with me, so the horse was in form," said Teetan.
"When he got there, I was expecting him to quicken up but after working so much I thought he was not going to kick.
"Once he got there and I asked him, he kicked pretty good for a strong win."
Umberto Rispoli missed Saturday's Sha Tin card with a back injury. That was his first absence this term and he made up for it with his first success since May 5 in Race 2, section one of the Class 4 Tong Fuk Handicap over 1,650m, on Lasting Friendship.
The Peter Ho-trained galloper had not hit the mark in 11 Hong Kong starts, not since a 1,200m maiden win at Pukekura pre-import.
The gelding held race favourite Touch Of Luck , who ran on for second under Zac Purton, despite his unloosening pacifiers bouncing around his head before flying off completely in the home straight.
"He's a horse that I've been following for a long time and I was thinking he'd been unlucky a few times from a wide draw," said Rispoli of the 29-1 shot.
"The instruction had been to get cover in midfield but he jumped so good tonight, and Starlit Knight surprised me by not wanting to lead, so I took the decision to sit outside the leader.
"The pace was slow and my horse is one-paced. He won from the front in New Zealand, so I wasn't scared to be there. We got down to the 600 (metres) and I tried to wind him up a bit, to get him working and he kept on to the line.
"That gives me some oxygen to the end of the season."
You have to go back two months and 17 meetings to find the last time Purton left the racecourse without a win and, while the champion jockey was not in the kind of all-conquering form that has bagged six and four-timers for fun, he still walked home with a win to maintain his streak.
It came on Lucky Win Win for trainer Benno Yung in Race 3, the Class 5 Tung Wan Handicap over 1,800m. - HKJC