Runaway debut winners, high-profile jockey changes and a last-day ban for Silvestre de Sousa - get all the latest from the Hong Kong racing scene.
The Hong Kong grapevine has been buzzing in the last few days ahead of a strong midweek Happy Valley card that will be live on Sky Sports Racing.
Warrior earns rave reviews for runaway debut win
Just occasionally, a horse makes a winning debut in Hong Kong and sets tongues wagging the world over.
It happened when Pakistan Star came from a different postcode to score at Sha Tin in 2016 and it happened in a very different way when Voyage Warrior showed brazen speed to crush Class 4 rivals over the straight 1000m on Sunday.
Ricky Yiu’s gelding posted a clock-busting trial win recently and delivered on morning promise in rare style, showing effortless power and clocking an identical time to the first horse home in the later Class 3 contest despite the fact that Karis Teetan spent the last 100m trying to pull him up.
Champion jockey Zac Purton was certainly impressed, likening the performance to the debut of Sacred Kingdom, who won 17 races and became the world’s top sprinter under Yiu’s tutelage after his easy debut success over the same course and distance in 2006.
Such comparisons are extravagant at this stage but Voyage Warrior looks a rare talent and a 14lb rise for Sunday's romp seems most unlikely to prevent him from going off at a very short price again when he moves into Class 3 company.
Stunning development as Zac replaces Karis
Sentiment is often in short supply when it comes to jockey bookings in Hong Kong and Teetan’s pleasure at the arrival of a potential new star has been tempered by the news that Purton will replace him aboard Hong Kong’s highest rated sprinter Mr Stunning for the spring showpieces.
Frankie Lor's gelding gave the Mauritian his first HK G1 success in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint last December but a narrow defeat in the Centenary Sprint has persuaded owner Maurice Koo to call on Purton when Mr Stunning returns in the G2 Sprint Cup on April 7.
Meanwhile, HK racing’s brilliant bad boy Pakistan Star will have a new trainer and an old jockey back aboard when he goes up against master miler Beauty Generation in the G2 Chairman’s Trophy a week on Sunday.
Owner Kerm Din switched the son of Shamardal from Tony Cruz after six consecutive unplaced efforts and Pakistan Star powered clear under Matthew Chadwick in his first barrier trial for his new handler at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning.
O’Sullivan is well aware that getting the mercurial gelding to show the same spark in the afternoon is the acid test but was delighted with what he saw and will use a clash with Beauty Generation in the Chairman’s Trophy next week as a springboard to the FWD QEII Cup on April 28.
Right Choice the final fling of de Sousa’s striking winter stint
Silvestre de Sousa’s spectacular 20-week stint in HK ended with a winner, a demotion and a ban at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The British champion excelled again when Frankie Lor’s ultra-progressive Right Choice made it five wins from six starts but was relegated from first to fourth after Utopia Life caused interference to Martin Harley aboard fast-finishing fourth Seven Heavens in an earlier sprint.
Utopia Life wouldn’t have lost the race in Britain but HK stewards aren’t so lenient when a horse has “lost running to which it was rightfully entitled.”
“I have never seen any place in the world do that to a horse that was in front when the one from the back looks for a run and can’t get a run,” said a frustrated de Sousa.
The Brazilian copped a two-day ban for his troubles but left for the airport soon after with 44 winners to his credit and a handy percentage on combined win and place prize money of seven million pounds since he arrived in HK back in early November.
Frustrated looks another Lor improver
Lor's 41 winners and 58 placed horses in a stellar second season have combined for around ten million sterling in prize money and the most upwardly mobile trainer in town can add to his haul when the progressive Frustrated bids to land Wednesday’s 12.45 at Happy Valley.
This three-year-old showed much improved form on just his third run over course and distance two weeks ago, scooting clear under apprentice Victor Wong and clocking one of the fastest closing splits (22.89s) of the night in the process.
A 9lb hike was only to be expected given the ease of the victory but Frustrated has drawn perfectly in stall 1 and should get a perfect lead from the freewheeling Mr Right.
Stalkers can have the last laugh in Valley burn-up
Finding the lead in the featured Pottinger Peak Handicap won’t be easy as at least half the field – namely Little Bird, Moment of Power, California Archer, Fabulous One, Big Time Baby and Baltic Whisper – are very quick indeed.
Logic suggests that one or two of the stalkers could have a major say as a result and, with that in mind, Music Addition and Super Turbo are well worth keeping an eye on.
Music Addition paid for pressing a frenetic gallop over 1200m here three weeks ago and was also found to be lame the following morning.
His two previous Valley wins marked him out as a sprinter with a very bright future, while Super Turbo has little 1000m form to speak of but is capable of a very powerful finish when the pace is as strong as seems likely to be here.