Jimmy Ting has 24 wins this season.
Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Declan Schuster
Jimmy Ting is hoping Amazing Star can put a mishap in the gates behind him when he takes his place in the Class 2 Begonia Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday (18 March).
“The horses form is good, he’s still fit and he looked very good in his most recent trial on the dirt,” the trainer said.
The Darci Brahma gelding kicked off his 2019/20 campaign on a mark of 58 and has since seen his figure skyrocket to 94, thanks largely to a hat-trick of course and distance wins.
The five-year-old’s unbeaten streak halted in dramatic fashion last time after he became fractious in the gates and broke through the front in late February. The gelding wound up finishing seventh after being reloaded.
“When he broke through the gates, I knew the second time he would be a bit slow out because he’s a go-in-front type of horse,” Ting said.
The handler has taken a different approach with his gelding since that issue, teaching the horse to settle in a recent trial, with regular race-rider and three-time champion jockey Zac Purton cuddling him to settle outside of the lead before crossing the line second behind Moment Of Power (126lb), who he meets again in Wednesday’s test.
“The other horse in that trial wanted to lead - so we let him go and elected to sit second to see if he can take a sit because we need to find out if he can improve a bit or not. The last three times he has just led by himself, we need to see if he can change a little bit,” Ting said.
Purton, not only agreed that Amazing Star’s explosive beginning was taken away following that mishap, but also suggested that a mishap at trackwork in the week leading up to that race wasn’t an ideal recipe for success.
“I think there were a few factors - falling off at trackwork and him having another lap around the track I don’t think helped,” Purton said, adding further, “going through the gates I don’t think helped because with these sprinters they’re all about explosive power and he used up a lot of that energy when he went through the gates like he did.
“Because of that, when he got back in the gate he just hesitated a touch when the gates opened - he didn’t want to bang his head again so he was a bit slow out, then he had to do that extra bit of work in the run and I think if you bottle all of that up you can say he had a genuine excuse.”
Fresh off a Sunday four-timer, Hong Kong’s champion jockey remains optimistic about Amazing Star’s continued climb up the ratings ladder.
“It gets harder and once you get to this grade it’s very hard, you can either get stuck on a plateau or go to the top but his recent trial was good, he stretched out well and the horse is going pretty good,” Purton said.
Ting’s gelding faces a competitive test in Wednesday night’s finale, including Sparkling Dragon (117lb) for Tony Millard, who will be ridden by Chad Schofield for the first time on race day.
The gelding has had his share of soundness issues, forcing Millard to space his runs, which has reaped rewards – three wins and three third place finishes.
“He had a few problems, which we ironed out, but he’s pretty straightforward, he just likes to run fresh – you can’t back him up too quickly, he doesn’t like that,” Millard said.
“He’s found his niche there; he’s just a Happy Valley horse, he goes around the course very well - he knows what to do.”
Chad Schofield partnered the gelding in a recent dirt trial in which he crossed the line in third behind last Sunday’s debut winner, Transcendent.
“He trialled ok - he’s a horse who hasn’t trialled well on the dirt before, even in his trial before he won it was just ok. He doesn’t like that (dirt) surface that much but he’s up in class here at the Valley with a lighter weight, he’s drawn nicely and I thought his win last time was good,” Schofield said.
“Since Tony (Millard) has got him he’s gone to a new level - I’m looking forward to riding him.”
Millard’s high reputation with stable transfers is highlighted by his most recent winner this season, Amazing Chocolate, who cruised to an easy four and three-quarter-length success.
Borges Derby dreaming with Oasis
Four-time Brazilian champion jockey Vagner Borges has only been in Hong Kong for a week since his return but has landed the mount on the Frankie Lor-trained Super Oasis in Sunday’s (22 March) HK$20 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
“I’m very happy to have a ride in the Hong Kong Derby - I didn’t expect to get one but I’m very excited for it now,” Borges said.
The Derby was first run in 1873 and is Hong Kong racing’s crown jewel, and the 26-year-old now has the chance to join a near 150-year honour roll of history as he takes over from Jamie Spencer, who was initially engaged to ride but is unable to fly due to travel restrictions.
“I gave him a trial last Friday - he trialled very good, so we booked the Brazilian, Vagner (Borges) to ride - it’s very exciting for him,” Lor said.
Borges’ short-term contract commenced last Sunday with nine rides, his best result being a second aboard Mongolian King for Me Tsui, who he links up with for three of his five rides this Wednesday (18 March) at Happy Valley in search of a first Hong Kong win.
“I’m trying very hard to get winners - it’s not easy here in Hong Kong as it’s very competitive but if I keep working hard hopefully the winners will come,” Borges said, through an interpreter.
Of Tsui’s four entries for Wednesday, Borges has been tasked with three, highlighted by the mount on Very Sweet Orange in the Class 3 Cassia Handicap (1000m). The bold front-runner is looking for a hat-trick of wins at the Valley and has drawn gate one.
“Me Tsui has been supporting me a lot, we get on well together and the best rides I had last time were with him - I’m looking forward to Wednesday night,” Borges said.
Borges arrived last season on a short-term contract for only five meetings and returned three runner-up efforts across that time, all for Tsui, from a total of 31 rides. His contract this term concludes on 31 May, 2020.
“I’m enjoying being here very much, the first race day I had a second and I feel I will get there slowly as I am trying as hard as I can,” he said.
Also on the card for Borges is Magnificent, another front-runner, who tackles the Class 3 Magnolia Handicap (1650m) in search of his second course and distance success this term.
Wednesday’s (18 March) eight-race card at Happy Valley commences at 7.15pm with the Class 5 Wistaria Handicap (2200m).