Travel Emperor (left) scores his second win in the Shing Yip Handicap.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Andrew Hawkins
Trainer Danny Shum and jockey Zac Purton combined for an important double at Sha Tin on Wednesday night (28 February). The pair took the first section of the Class 4 Shing Yip Handicap (1200m) with Travel Emperor, before later adding the Class 3 Hung To Handicap (1200m) with Pick Number One.
Travel Emperor, a graduate of last year’s Hong Kong International Sale, had entered the season with big wraps on him but Shum said the Duporth three-year-old had taken time to mature.
“It is such a relief,” Shum said. “We bought him at last year’s sale, and like many of the horses at the sale, he has plenty of talent. When he won last season, I thought he was a horse heading straight for Class 2 – and although I haven’t given up hope that he may get there, he’s been frustrating.
“Mentally, he’s just not there yet – he’s only four and that was only his 10th start tonight. He is starting to come around though and I think I will keep him on the dirt now that he is up in Class 3. Once it falls into place, he will still rise through the grades, I hope.”
Three-year-old Pick Number One (128lb) could not be more different – he entered the season unraced and with few expectations, but he continued his march to Class 2 with an easy win over the previously unbeaten Ugly Warrior (126lb) in the night’s finale.
Pick Number One is now unbeaten on dirt, winning four from four over 1200m on the Sha Tin all-weather track, with his only defeat coming when runner-up over the same distance on turf.
“We bought him out of New Zealand, from the same agent who found Little Bridge for us,” Shum said, referring to his 2012 King’s Stand Stakes winner. “He’s a very big horse, almost 1,250 pounds – and he was more than 200 pounds bigger than our rival tonight, Ugly Warrior, so I think that really helped. They are both good horses but I think we had circumstances in our favour, so I was hopeful that we could beat him.”
Shum said he had given the Darci Brahma gelding a freshen-up since his last run in January.
“Rest is very important during the middle of the season, especially for these younger horses,” the trainer said. “I gave him a break and he seemed a lot sharper tonight.”
New milestone for reigning Champion Trainer Size
Trainer John Size became just the third trainer ever to prepare 1,100 Hong Kong winners when Five Stars Agent won the opener, the Class 5 Yue Man Handicap (1200m), under Olivier Doleuze.
Within three races, Size had made it 1,101, with Remarkable scoring arguably the night’s most impressive win with Joao Moreira aboard when racing clear for a three-length victory in the Class 4 Wai Yip Handicap (1800m).
“1100 is no different to 1099, I’m still just trying to do the best I can for my stable,” Size said.
The handler trails only John Moore (1,586) and Tony Cruz (1,141) in the list of all-time Hong Kong winners; those three are well clear of Caspar Fownes (779) in fourth.
The night’s feature, at least in terms of grade, was the Class 2 Hoi Yuen Handicap (1200m), taken out by the Fownes-trained Blocker Dee. Five-pound claimer Dylan Mo was in the saddle.
“He won three races last season, including a dead heat in a Class 1, and that meant that his rating got up towards 100,” Fownes said. “The apprentices are going really well, that was a terrific ride from Dylan and I’ve been really happy with him. He was a key factor tonight.”
Racing returns to Sha Tin on Saturday (3 March).