Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Leo Schlink
Tony Cruz will set Ima Single Man for the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) next month after a superb ride from Matthew Poon enabled the Australian import to land the Class 2 Lukfook Jewellery Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Saturday (18 December).
Winner of the G2 Karrakatta Plate (1200m) as a two-year-old at Ascot Racecourse in April 2020 before export, Ima Single Man now has three victories in Hong Kong for Cruz with his latest success comfortably the most significant, courtesy of a breathtaking Poon ride.
Trapped on the fence deep into the straight behind a wall of horses, Poon initially angled out in search of clear ground before steering back to the rails, allowing Ima Single Man to accelerate doggedly to deny Circuit Three and Shining Gem.
“He’ll definitely go for the Classic Mile. I might give him a little breather. I’ll have a look at the programme,” Cruz said. “He got the luck of the draw (barrier two), that played the biggest part in it (the win).
“Somehow, he had a good start. He’s not a very fast horse — he’s never been a fast horse — but, somehow, he got the inside run and he sneaked up. I think the luck of the draw played the biggest role and the jockey rode the perfect race, too.”
The Hong Kong Classic Mile on 30 January is the first leg of the lucrative Four-Year-Old Classic Series, which also features the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on 27 February and culminates in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 20 March.
New Zealand Derby winner Rocket Spade, who is being aimed at the Hong Kong Derby, produced an eye-catching debut effort to cross in fourth place behind Ima Single Man.
Derek Leung, 33, took riding honours at the meeting with a treble, clinching a three-timer when seven-year-old Gunnison edged out Magic Supreme by a short head to win the Lukfook Jewellery Dear Q Handicap (1200m, dirt), following Leung’s earlier victories on Classic Moon and Flying Dragon.
“I knew today we were going to have good results because I had good support today,” Leung said. “Just to draw well today meant I had some horses with good chances to do well and they have run well (recently). It’s good to ride three winners.”
Hong Kong International Sale Graduate Romantic Warrior continued a sharp rise for Danny Shum and earned an ISG Bonus of HK$600,000 for his owner Mr Peter Lau by winning the Class 3 Lukfook Jewellery F-style PT in Style Collection Handicap (1200m) under Joao Moreira.
Unbeaten in three starts, the three-year-old son of Acclamation raced in midfield before accelerating impressively in the straight to give Shum his 15th win of the campaign.
Shum indicated the youngster might also be given a shot at the Hong Kong Classic Mile.
Moreira cut injured Zac Purton’s lead in the jockeys’ championship to five wins when he sealed a double aboard Soulmate in the Class 3 Lukfook Jewellery F-style Hey Cool Collection Handicap (1600m).
Moreira has 44 wins for the season, compared to Purton’s 49.
Chris So was pleasantly surprised by Classic Moon’s victory in the Class 4 Lukfook Jewellery Hexicon Handicap (1200m) under Derek Leung with the first-starter far exceeding the trainer’s expectations.
“The horse is still green and I didn't think he was ready to win today but he was good,” So said. “We knew he had potential but I didn't think he would win his start, and from draw 11. I told the owner I thought he should run well, hopefully finish midfield - that would have been acceptable - and we plan for the next start, but luckily we won.”
Leung sealed a double aboard Dennis Yip’s Flying Dragon in the Class 4 Lukfook Jewellery Heirloom Fortune Collection Handicap (1200m, dirt).
Paul O’Sullivan hopes August Moon can continue to develop after the Highly Recommended gelding claimed the Class 5 Lukfook Jewellery Love Is Beauty Collection Handicap (1200m) under Jerry Chau.
“He’s been a slow-maturing horse who’s just taken time. He got the best run in the race by 100 yards and hopefully he can go on with it now,” O’Sullivan said.
Benno Yung harbours similar hopes for Incredible, who continued his consistent season with a second victory in three starts, this time in the Class 5 Lukfook Jewellery Wedding Collection Handicap (1600m) under Keith Yeung.
“He’s healthy and racing well and hopefully he can win in Class 5 again,” Yung said on posting his 11th win for the season.
Peter Ho attributed Happy Daily’s victory in the Class 4 Lukfook Jewellery Goldstyle Handicap (1400m) to Karis Teetan’s composure after the Pins gelding scored from a favourable barrier (four).
“In the past few runs, he’s had no luck with wide draws. Fortunately, today he got a good draw and was able to sit and sprint. I’m happy because Karis did a good job,” he said.
Tony Millard’s decision to drop Ezra back from 2000m yielded immediate dividends when the grey snared the Class 4 Lukfook Jewellery Love Forever Collection Handicap (1600m) under Ruan Maia.
“We’ve been running him over 2000 metres and we decided to give him a change, but when the draw came out, I thought it was a disaster but the race worked exactly as I had planned, so we were quite lucky,” Millard said.
“He’s a nice horse, he’s earnt his way as a relatively inexpensive South African horse. He’s been competitive and stayed sound. He’s done a good job.”
Maia, who posted his sixth winner for the campaign, said: “I’m very happy. Thanks so much to Tony. The trainers are still giving me support and I’m still working hard.”
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday (22 December)