Winning trio light up Happy Valley
Hong Kong raceday round-up
A healthy dose of nostalgia descended upon Happy Valley on Wednesday night as old firms reunited and old faces reappeared, led by trainer John Moore and jockeys Douglas Whyte and Craig Williams.
Moore and Whyte combined to land a double, taking the Class 4 Shek Kip Mei Handicap with lightly raced ISAAC before snaring the night's feature, the Class 3 Hong Kong Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation Centenary Gold Cup Handicap on SEA JADE.
Moore was full of praise for Hong Kong's 13-time champion rider. "Congratulations to Dougie," he said. "Two great wins, two copybook rides and it's great to see him back in the winners' circle."
As for Sea Jade, Moore said: "He just loves this track. He kicked on turning in and was very impressive."
As for Williams, the visiting Australian jockey broke an 11-year Happy Valley drought in emphatic fashion when he scored a double with wins aboard Tony Millard-trained CLOUD NINE in the Class 4 Cheung Sha Wan Handicap and Chris So's TRAVEL AMBASSADOR in the Class 4 Tai Hang Tung Handicap.
Williams has been a frequent visitor to Sha Tin but last won at Happy Valley in 2005, scoring a double on June 22 that year.
"I love riding in Hong Kong, it's always great to be here," Williams said after recording two wins, a second and a third from his five rides.
"The skills I learnt here along with my experiences in Europe helped me to five championships back in Australia, so it is always special to come back.
I don't get the chance to ride at Happy Valley too often and I know it's been a while since I won here but I loved being back."
Trainer So was effusive in his praise for Williams, who will ride in Hong Kong for the next three meetings. "I love putting Craig on," he said.
"He's a big-name jockey, he does his homework, the owners love him and he always gives his all."
Trainer Dennis Yip got his 600th Hong Kong winner on GARLIC YEAH and the handler was delighted to have reached the figure, pointing to jockey Joao Moreira as the crucial factor.
"It was all on the jockey there, Joao made all the difference," said Yip.
Moreira later added wins in the final two races on Caspar Fownes' MARVEL HERO and and Tony Cruz-trained HAPPY SPIRIT to bring up his second treble in the space of four days. - HKJC
Shane's early birds catch the eye
With racing over for the season, trainer Shane Baertschiger hasn't hit the snooze button.
Indeed, and like what is obviously happening at many other yards at Kranji, his runners have been hard at work and four of them caught the eye yesterday morning when put through barrier practices.
In particular, we liked the way SMIDDY BYRNE and MR EXCHEQUER worked. They cantered one round before jumping from the gates on Track 6, running 600m in 36.4sec.
A four-year-old by O'Reilly, Smiddy Byrne has had six starts for a third and a fourth. He has not raced since late August.
Also absent from the racetrack since August, Mr Exchequer's gallop was pleasing.
A three-year-old by Savabeel, he has faced the starter just three times and picked up a fourth placing behind Muscular Dragon in an Initiation on Aug 21. That was his last start.
Owned by Auric Stable, DRAGON STEED was another resident from Baertschiger's yard who had some barrier practice yesterday morning.
Ridden by apprentice H Syafiq, the four-year-old by Sebring cantered one round before jumping from the barrier and clocked 38.2sec for 600m. He had stablemate CHANGBAI MOUNTAIN for company.
Dragon Steed has been to the races 12 times and his best showing was a second to Arion in March. He has not raced in the last six months.
As for Changbai Mountain, it could be said that he's been knocking on the door.
A four-year-old by I Am Invincible, he has been to the races nine times and has three second-place efforts to show.
One of those was in mid-July when beaten by Knight Chen Bay. He had his last start on Sept 2.
Start off with Heart And Soul
RACE 1 (800M)
It is usually a big advantage to have had a run at this early stage of their careers, so (5) HEART AND SOUL will be the one they all have to catch.
Trainer Gavin Smith and Alan Greeff usually have their runners ready for battle, so (4) CLOSE TO MY HEART and (7) MARINELLA deserve the utmost respect.
Two that can also win are (6) LAWDY MISS CLAWDY and (10) PURE FICTION.
RACE 2 (1,000M)
(1) RAND HEDGE has been disappointing in that he has yet to win after nine runs but he is capable of winning this on his debut for trainer Grant Paddock.
(2) BATTERSEA BRIDGE has Andrew Fortune aboard and that suggests that he might be the right one in the yard.
(7) IMPERIAL TOPAZ can improve and is one to watch.
RACE 3 (1,400M)
(1) SUNSET TRIPP has been disappointing in her last two starts but is capable of winning.
(3) CAT AND THE MOON is clearly at her very best over a longer distance than this 1,400m but can still win with Fortune aboard.
(4) HARVARD CRIMSON returns from a break and can win if fit.
(5) PEACH DELIGHT is doing well.
RACE 4 (1,400M)
(2) OLI MIRANDA has done well enough in her two local starts and, from a good draw, she should run well.
(3) KASHMIRA did a lot better last time out but is badly drawn.
(5) CUTEY ME was disappointing when trying blinkers last time out but is a lot better than that and has a big chance.
(6) CONTESSA FANTASIA disappointed in her last two starts and should contest the finish.
RACE 5 (1,400M)
(1) NATIONAL KING is well drawn and was not too far in his last two starts.
(2) MINNAROOM showed that racing on turf is his game and did well when winning his last start.
(3) NABISCO has been disappointing in that he has not won recently but could prove very dangerous over this shorter distance.
(4) NEWCREST is not well drawn but could prefer this longer distance.
RACE 6 (2,400M)
(1) CROWN OF GOLD is a classy stayer and, although he is at his very best over a bit further than this distance, he should still go very close to winning.
(2) DRILL SARGEANT is distance suited and deserves respect.
(4) DREAMFOREST has looked better the further he has gone, so holds a winning chance.
(7) ROCKY STALLONE will prefer this longer distance.
(8) ONE AWAY is in good form and can go close.
RACE 7 (1,600M)
(1) ALGHADEER is in good form but may prefer further than this 1,600m.
(2) JET EXPLORER and (3) TRUE MASTER have served the Justin Snaith yard well and are both likely to run well in this race.
(4) GOGETTHESHERIFF is well drawn and is suited over the trip.
(5) SHADOW OFHIS SMILE needed his last run and can make vast improvement.
RACE 8 (1,000M)
(1) OMEGA ONSLAUGHT has some good post maiden form but is returning from a break and makes his debut for the Tara Laing yard.
(2) CAPTAIN NEMO was disappointing since his maiden win but could be returning to his best and is the one they all have to beat.
(4) ZEVENASTIC is suited over the distance and should be in the shake-up.
(5) AUDITORIUM makes his debut for trainer Dorie Sham and is not out of it.