Matthew Poon winning aboard Inventor
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Andrew Hawkins
Star apprentice Matthew Poon continued his strong start to his Hong Kong career with his first four-timer and his first Happy Valley trophy victory at the city circuit on Wednesday night (13 September).
Poon dominated the first half of the card, winning the two sections of the Class 4 Chicago Handicap (1200m) aboard Dennis Yip’s Starlight and Derek Cruz-trained Good Companion before he won one of Hong Kong’s oldest races, the Class 3 Fakei Cup Handicap (1000m), on E-Super for Manfred Man.
“I thought I had the best book of rides I’d had in Hong Kong so far, so I hoped I could ride a winner or two,” Poon said after riding half of the winners on offer at Happy Valley. “Riding four, though, that’s great. What I am most proud of is that I felt I did everything right on these horses tonight, and that’s going to be good for me in the future.”
However, it was the claimer’s win aboard the Danny Shum-prepared Inventor in the Class 3 San Antonio Handicap (1650m) which caught the eye. Poon was trapped wide near the rear early on the six-year-old, but when the pace slowed to a crawl, he slid forward gradually before assuming the lead just inside the 700m.
“That was a great ride,” Shum said. “It was a slow tempo early and he was in the right spot to be able to take off, but he still timed it very well. It takes confidence to make that move and he’s riding with plenty of confidence.”
It was a fortuitous booking for Poon, who wasn’t the original intended rider for Inventor (125lb).
“Originally, I had Nash (Rawiller) down to ride but he had already committed to another horse,” Shum said, with Rawiller finishing a closing second aboard Divine Boy (130lb). “So instead I booked the boy to take some weight off. That’s his first win for me and hopefully there are more wins to come.”
And Poon said that it was Rawiller’s win on Inventor in February that provided a template on Wednesday night: “I watched the replays and Nash did something similar and won on him so I was confident he could keep going, although he was fresh too so that was in my mind.”
E-Super had faced a long recovery period, suffering a leg injury after winning twice early in 2016, and he went winless through 10 starts last season. However, Man says he always believed he could get him back into the winners’ circle.
“He has had issues but he has ability,” the trainer said. “Fresh was going to be best for him, especially over 1000m, and it was a good ride from the kid, just what you want with the claim.”
The only race that Poon did not ride in on the night was the third, the Class 5 Los Angeles Handicap (1650m), which resulted in the season’s first dead-heat victory between Me Tsui-trained Curling Luxury and Richard Gibson’s Empire Of Mongolia.
Curling Luxury (128lb) hit the lead at the top of the short Happy Valley stretch and looked home under five-pound claimer Jack Wong before the in-form Karis Teetan brought Empire Of Mongolia (113lb) with a flying run up the crown of the track. They hit the line wide apart, and the judge could not find a margin between the pair, both maidens before Wednesday night.
Teetan then added a second victory on Tony Millard-trained Super Form in the Class 4 New York Handicap (1650m), taking the Mauritian rider to eight wins for the season. The Azamour gelding had won a similar race fresh last season as a 93-1 rank outsider, but there was no big price on Wednesday night as he was sent out as the 4.5 second favourite.
“He found the right race tonight,” Millard said. “It wasn’t a particularly strong Class 4, and Karis is on top form at the moment, he rode a terrific race.”
Millard took training honours with a double of his own, and he has high ambitions for Class 2 Washington D.C. Handicap (1650m) winner Sichuan Dar.
“I will wait and see where his rating is, but I’m thinking he could be a type for the Sha Tin Trophy,” Millard said. “I’ll speak to the owner too and see how he comes out of it and then we’ll make up our mind but he could be a lightweight hope. I’ve been pretty happy with him, I like the way today he really fought on well. He’s only small but he’s tough.”
The Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m) will be run on 22 October and could see the Not A Single Doubt six-year-old tackle G1 winners like Beauty Only, Helene Paragon and Werther under handicap conditions.
Elsewhere on Wednesday night, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s young members were cheering when Racing Club horse Young Empire, trained by Chris So, scored his first Class 3 win in the San Francisco Handicap (1200m). It was also a first win this season for veteran Eddy Lai.