Season's blooming for Shum
He will have two runners in December's big sprint
Danny Shum is counting down the days to the Longines Hong Kong Sprint on Dec 8. That, after Seasons Bloom swooped under Grant van Niekerk to snare a thrilling victory in the Premier Bowl Handicap over 1,200m on Sunday.
Shum could have two strong candidates for the HK$20 million (S$3.45 million) showcase seven weeks from now, with the stable's rising star Regency Legend being pointed that way too.
"I didn't run Regency Legend in the race because I'll run him in the Jockey Club Sprint on Nov 17. Seasons Bloom won't run in that race, I'll keep him fresh and hopefully both will meet in the Hong Kong Sprint in December," the handler said.
Seasons Bloom had closed nicely for second place behind Regency Legend in a 1,200m Class 1 on Sept 1, after which Shum stuck to a "patience first" agenda and gave his charge seven weeks to arrive at Sunday's test in prime condition.
It was his first success since a career peak win in the January 2018 G1 Stewards' Cup.
"I've kept him fresh, that's important for this horse," Shum said.
The handler also acknowledged the importance of the Hong Kong Jockey Club's facility at Conghua, where Seasons Bloom has been based since December last year.
"Conghua has helped him a lot," he said.
"It's all about keeping this horse fresh and keeping him happy - the environment there is good for him, he loves it and my team there has done a great job with him."
On Sunday, Rattan made the running in the first Group 2 race of the Hong Kong season as the favourite Full Of Beauty settled fourth, just ahead of Pakistan Star and Wishful Thinker.
Seasons Bloom was parked on the rail with Ivictory on his left flank and only fresh air behind.
Van Niekerk shifted Seasons Bloom to mid track upon straightening for the wire but was still last with 250m to race as Full Of Beauty wrestled to get ahead of the longtime leader.
No sooner had Joao Moreira's mount edged to the fore than Seasons Bloom hit full stride and whistled by to land a short-head verdict in 1:08.83sec.
The win was van Niekerk's first G2 score in Hong Kong, his only other Pattern race success being aboard Flying Thunder in last season's G3 Premier Cup Handicap.
"It's very nice to win a race like this, I always knew I had a chance coming to the race and this is a big moment. Hopefully, I can just keep going now," he said before going on to seal a double with the Ricky Yiu-trained Emerald Spur in the Class 4 sprint over 1,400m.
John Size, meanwhile, was seeking a third consecutive win in the Premier Bowl after Mr Stunning (2017) and Hot King Prawn (2018), but the champion trainer had to settle for second with the Moreira-ridden Full Of Beauty.
"He had a dream run, unfortunately he just got beaten," Moreira said. "There is a bit of frustration from not winning the race but we have to be very pleased with what he's done in the recent past. It was definitely a good run." - HKJC