Patience, perseverance pay off for Yiu

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 December, 2006, 12:00am

Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fie deserves some recognition for the way he has picked himself up by the bootstraps this season after failing to make the Jockey Club's performance benchmark last season for the first time.

In the wake of a Boxing Day double, including the stunning win of exciting three-year-old Sacred Kingdom, Yiu admitted to not just one but two ordinary seasons. To his credit, he didn't go away and sulk but gave himself a reality check to see what he could do about turning things around.

As is so often the case in the subtle art of training thoroughbreds, little things mean a lot. Yiu made some system changes, to ensure everything was being done properly, instead of most things. And he improved his own work ethic as well.

He began working more closely with two top jockeys, Danny Nikolic and Manoel Nunes, and gave careful consideration to their input after they had ridden his horses in work. And suddenly, the results started to flow.

A sparkling pre-season trial win with veteran Flying Bishop showed things were on track. That eventually translated into three wins for the old campaigner, with Nunes on board each time, and the momentum was established.

Now, along has come Sacred Kingdom, with Yiu shrugging off the potential burden of expectation by declaring him as good as the great Fairy King Prawn at the same stage of his career.

Today, Yiu's season reads nine winners from 56 runners - a wonderful effort from a yard that has only 24 horses.

To put this performance into perspective, Yiu now has a winning strike rate of 16.1 per cent and that's the best in town, even ahead of premiership pacemaker Caspar Fownes (14.6 per cent) and second placed Paul O'Sullivan (14.3 per cent).

It may have been that the most feared aspect of Chinese culture - loss of face - has weighed Yiu down inordinately in recent years as the combined disappointment of losing three champions - Fairy King Prawn, Electronic Unicorn and Bullish Luck - to other trainers took its toll.

But it looks as though Yiu has now recovered, emotionally, and what better way to get your spirits soaring than to be taking another potential champion to the races.

Sacred Kingdom's win over 1,000 metres in 56.3 seconds in Class Three was as impressive as anything seen in that grade since Silent Witness won at his second start in January 2003 over 1,200 metres. Not better, just the best since.

The son of emerging champion sire Encosta de Lago won the race in a common canter, with Nikolic keeping him well on the bridle over the final 400 metres and doing only enough to secure victory. Exactly how much was left in the tank is anyone's guess, but another three lengths would be a bare minimum.

If Sacred Kingdom keeps winning, and there seems no earthly reason why he won't, Yiu will be able to have another crack at the big time soon enough.

We might even be able to see something that happens all the time overseas but rarely in Hong Kong - a three-year-old tackling his peers under Group One weight-for-age conditions later in the season.



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