Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Leo Schlink
Frankie Lor’s aspirations of securing a maiden Hong Kong trainers’ championship have been significantly boosted by a Happy Valley treble on Wednesday night (25 May) but the unassuming horseman is taking nothing for granted.
Edging to a 77-74 lead over 11-time champion John Size with 14 meetings left in the season, Lor reclaimed the ascendancy over his former boss with the victories of My Ecstatic, Everyone’s Delight and Excellent Peers.
Delighted with the form of his stable, Lor refuses to entertain thoughts of winning the title in his fifth season — primarily out of respect for the legendary Size.
“I'm very happy to have a treble but my old boss is really strong — some meetings he can win three or four, so I will just keep trying hard,” Lor said. “I’ll just keep trying to train more winners.”
Lor clinched the evening’s feature race — the Class 2 Castle Peak Bay Handicap (1650m) — aboard Everyone’s Delight, who prevailed by a short head under Alexis Badel over Soulmate and Zac Purton.
Badel was impressed with Everyone’s Delight, who had spent the majority of the season in Class 3 company and lugging top weight of 133lb.
Rising in grade, the El Roca gelding dropped to 120lb and duly produced a winning performance.
“He did an excellent job and I must say he deserved it. He is such a lovely horse and racing in Class 3 carrying top weight is never easy, it’s tough. So, tonight, small field, good field, light weight — that certainly helped him,” Badel said.
“He’d had a break and I could feel he was very happy to go back to the races and he responded very well and tactically it was a good race. It was lucky I could put the horse in the right spot and just come late and he did a good job. It was fantastic.”
Lor opened his account for the night when My Ecstatic ground his way to a gritty win in the Class 3 Kat O Hoi Handicap (1650m) under Derek Leung and completed his treble when Excellent Peers accelerated strongly in the straight under a rails-hugging ride from Joao Moreira in the first section of the Class 4 Mirs Bay Handicap (1200m).
Moreira now holds a formidable 120-112 margin over arch-rival Purton as the season winds to a close.
Tony Millard posted his 700th victory in Hong Kong when Above All triumphed in the second section of the Class 4 Mirs Bay Handicap (1200m) under Ruan Maia.
The dual Hong Kong Derby-winning handler said: “700 is a nice number. It’s been a long time. We’ve been here for a long time. We’re very happy to have had the success that we’ve had, we’ve trained for some very nice owners over the years and we’ve had some very nice horses.
“It’s been a long innings and I’m in the twilight of my career now.”
Vincent Ho celebrated his 32nd birthday in style when Michael Chang’s Grand Power pounced late to claim the Class 5 Yan Chau Tong Handicap (1800m).
“He stays on really well, all of the way he was really relaxed but when I asked him, there was so much underneath. Luckily, we got the perfect position,” Ho, famed for his association with Golden Sixty, said.
Toycoon provided Ricky Yiu with his 39th victory of the season when he drove hard to the line under Harry Bentley to lift the first section of the Class 4 Port Shelter Handicap (1650m).
“The horse runs for him (Bentley) and with blinkers on that put some freshness back in him and with a good draw (barrier six), he was able to perform and win,” Yiu said.
Bentley posted a race-to-race double when Benno Yung’s Regency Poet claimed the Class 5 Rambler Channel Handicap (1200m). It was Englishman Bentley’s 23rd victory of the season, while Yung took his tally for the campaign to 34 wins.
Luke Currie notched his first win at Happy Valley when David Hall-trained Red Brick Fighter wore down Fearless Fire to snare the second section of the Class 4 Port Shelter Handicap (1650m). Currie, 40, has ridden four winners since moving to Hong Kong in January, having overcome a neck injury sustained in a track fall in February.
Hall and Currie were familiar partners in Australia, notably combining with Hall’s Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva to win the 2002 G3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2500m) at Flemington.
Douglas Whyte and Lyle Hewitson closed the meeting in trademark fashion with Equaletta Blitz’s victory in the Class 3 Deep Bay Handicap. The South African duo has shared 15 wins this campaign, with Whyte posting 39 and Hewitson 19.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (29 May) with the running of the G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m).