Easy makes it tough for Socrates
Three wins means sprinter may force a tie with Happy Valley Million Challenge leader
The new Happy Valley sprinting find, Easy, won his third straight at the track last night to force Caspar Fownes' hand with Happy Valley Million Challenge leader Socrates.
The Fownes-trained Socrates was resting in his box comfortably ahead in the Smartone-Vodafone HVMC on 60 points last night until The Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained Easy took the Craigengower Cricket Club Challenge Cup (1,000m) to give him his third win in the competition which finishes at the end of the month.
With Easy now on 45 points, he can still force a tie with Socrates for the HK$650,000 first prize if he should win his next run at the Valley on February 28.
'Well there isn't really a lot for Socrates between now and then because he's rated 97 now,' Fownes explained. 'I thought we probably had it won but if it's really going to go to the wire with Easy, there is a Class Two over 1,650m February 28 where I can run him to try to get points. All he needs is one point to ensure he wins the Million Challenge.'
Easy (Howard Cheng Yue-tin) has been something of a revelation since being switched to the Valley circuit and is unbeaten in three sprint runs.
'His temperament has been a problem, he's a very nervous horse,' said Lui. 'But coming to Happy Valley has brought the best out in him and he'll concentrate on sprint races here in future. He's been fortunate to get inside draws at each of those wins.'
It was one of a winning pair for Lui, who also took the following race with Caga Boy after a nice Manoel Nunes ride, but training honours nevertheless went elsewhere.
Dennis Yip Chor-hong sprung to life with a treble as Eddie Lai Wai-ming scored on Evergreen, while Douglas Whyte steered home Spaced and Hong Kong Derby hopeful, Lhojong.
A lightly raced three-year-old in Melbourne, Lhojong was placed at Group Two level there a year ago, he was bought as a Derby horse for Hong Kong and Yip said he was still hopeful the horse would get there.
'He has been slow to acclimatise here, but is just coming to form now and I think there is a lot of improvement in the horse,' Yip said after Lhojong outgamed Disguise in the Class Two final event.
'He has won off an 83 rating tonight so he will go up to around 88 or 89 now and I think with one more win maybe he can get into the Derby field.'
Danny Shum Chap-shing went close with a David Price Bloodstock first starter last weekend in High Point and went one better with a debutant from the same source in Singing Diners (Eric Saint-Martin) last night.
Shum admitted that, like High Point, Singing Diners was well short of his top but his 'big heart' and a touch of quality enabled him to win.
'He had a small problem in training before and could not really be pressured so he was only 70 per cent fit for this race,' Shum said. 'On his pedigree, Singing Diners will need further than the 1,200m of tonight's race to show his best, but being a bit fresh and underdone probably helped him to sprint like that.'
Other winners on the card were Manfred Man Ka-leung with Diamond Era (Andrasch Starke) and Michael Chang Chun-wai, who managed to coax a rare win out of Touch Down with some help from an excellent Danny Nikolic ride.
Touch Down has now won just three of 54 starts but has so often ruined his own chances in his races by getting slowly out of the starting gates.
Nikolic was having his fourth ride on the gelding last night and was ready for him, winning the start to find the rail just behind the speed and from there Touch Down - the omen tip in Super Bowl week - was never going to lose.
'The horse has been racing well lately but not quite able to win,' Chang said. 'A great job from Danny tonight from the good gate made all the difference and I'll keep the horse going while he is in this form. There's another Class Five over 1,650m here next week, so he can go around again in that.'