Time Warp (112lb) ran his rivals a merry dance for the third time in as many races, with a powerful front-running display that annexed the Sha Tin Mile Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin’s Season Finale fixture today, Sunday, 16 July.
An assured make-all ride from regular partner Alvin Ng ensured that the last Class 1 silverware of the 2016/17 campaign went to owner Martin Siu’s galloper, a five-time winner in Europe for Sir Mark Prescott pre-import, the last two of those in French Listed grade.
“He loves to be in front and he’s a very fit horse, he’s even fitter than his last race,” said Ng after the strapping chestnut had maintained a length and three quarters of daylight over the deep-closing runner-up Booming Delight (123lb).
“He didn’t have a quick start today but he soon picked up, and, with the draw from gate one, we were able to take the early initiative and dictate the pace. Once he got to the front we were in total control.
“I ride him every day and he’s really settled into his stride now in Hong Kong. He’s shown improvement in his last three races and I think he can keep on improving,” he added.
Ng has enjoyed a late-season flourish of sorts thanks to the Tony Cruz-trained Time Warp’s hat-trick, this being the rider’s fifth win of the term. But the jockey, despite another confident display on his part, admitted to some pre-race doubts.
“Before this race I was a little bit doubtful about whether he could have that kind of performance at this level, but he’s gone and won easily, and I’d be hopeful that he can progress to be competitive in the better races – I hope I will still have the chance to ride him next season,” he said of the 3.7 market third choice, a back-to-back winner at Happy Valley before returning to Sha Tin for this, his 10th Hong Kong start.
“I did wonder if this horse was a Happy Valley specialist after his two wins there, but after today he showed that he can handle the Sha Tin track well, too,” he added.
“It’s been a good end to the season for me. I just keep working hard and thankfully Mr. Cruz has given me an opportunity on this horse.”
The John Size-trained three-year-old Beat The Clock, the race’s 2.1 favourite was a further length and three quarters back in third under Joao Moreira.
Size and Moreira made amends in the next, the Class 3 Mr Award Handicap (1400m), as Hong Kong debutant Calculation, a Dundalk maiden winner for John Oxx pre-import, led from trap to line. It was the champion jockey’s 170th win this season.
And the duo struck again in the 10th race, the Class 3 Medic Kingdom Handicap (1200m), with the game three-year-old Ivictory.
Chang’s sweet sixteen
It was a nail-biting start to the day for trainer Michael Chang. The popular handler went into the 11-race card with 15 wins for the season, one short of the minimum required to avoid a first career strike. The Hong Kong Jockey Club operates a three-strikes-and-you’re-out system for trainers, with three failures to reach the minimum win or prize money (HK$18.5 million) benchmarks leading to a loss of licence. Chang had banked HK$16.89 million.
To the trainer’s obvious relief, and the delight of the Sha Tin faithful, Our Folks hit the board to nail the magic 16 just three races in.
“It was worrying – my heart was pounding – but I’m happy now. I thought I could win 1-2-3!” Chang said.
He almost did. The trainer, most famous for his fine handling of the G1-winning dirt track sprinter, Rich Tapestry, has hit a rough patch in recent seasons but went into the afternoon with three smart chances at the head of the card.
First up was 9/1 shot Starry Starlies (113lb) in the Class 5 Being Famous Handicap (1200m), but a big effort could not prevent his career figures going to zero from 20. The 17-rated gelding finished two short-heads third at the end of a grinding stretch run that flattered but failed as Alberto Sanna prevailed on Happy Fiery Dragon (130lb) for Derek Cruz.
Then came Je Pense (132lb), with the in-from Italian up top, in the Class 5 My Choice Handicap (1800m). Sanna got to work well before the home turn, driving the maiden wide for an agonising will-he-won’t-he run to the line. But Almond Lee’s Proud Sky (129lb) held the edge by a short-head at the wire under Keith Yeung, second to Sanna in the previous contest.
“Je Pense is lazy. Alberto said he threw everything at the horse, it was a good ride, but the horse just doesn’t put everything in,” Chang said.
Our Folks (127lb) broke the tension in the next, the Class 4 Big Profit Handicap (1200m). The 3.4 second-favourite obliged under gun apprentice Matthew Poon. That raised a trademark warm smile from Chang and prompted a flurry of handshakes and back slaps.
“This horse has been running quite well, and today he had a good draw and Matthew Poon, so I was quite confident he could win. He’s a very good apprentice,” Chang said of Poon, “he claims seven pounds but he’s not a boy, he’s already a little man!”
Poon ended his first Hong Kong season with 22 wins after taking the last, the Class 2 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy (1400m) on Solar Hei Hei for his boss, David Hall.
Dennis Yip and Douglas Whyte teamed up as The Full Bloom quickened through a rain storm to see off fellow grey Silverfield in the fourth, the Class 4 Joy And Fun Handicap (1400m), and Yip doubled up when Kei Chiong drove Generous Bobo to victory in the Class 4 Sight Winner Handicap (1400m).
Neil Callan, secure in third-place in the jockeys’ premiership, added a 47th win for the term when the Richard Gibson-trained King Of Mongolia won the Class 4 Miraculous Handicap (1800m). Zac Purton and Peter Ho combined to take the Class 3 Entrapment Handicap (1600m) with Green Energy.
Season’s final awards
After racing, Derek Leung was presented with the Tony Cruz Award as the season’s most successful homegrown rider. The jockey rode 25 winners during the campaign, despite twice being sidelined due to injury.
And Champion Jockey Joao Moreira was recognised as the season’s Most Popular Jockey following a public vote.
Race fans also voted Australia’s super mare Winx the season’s Most Admired Overseas Horse, while the John Size-trained D B Pin was confirmed the Most Improved Horse after rising 55 points in the ratings.
Source: The Hong Kong Jockey Club (David Morgan)