Cheng celebrates Kingdom coup with treble
Top local rider Howard Cheng Yue-tin's timing was perfect yesterday, landing a treble to celebrate his brand-new partnership with the world champion sprinter Sacred Kingdom.
It was Cheng's fourth treble, but capped a week when Cheng was only informed late last week that he would be the surprise replacement for Gerald Mosse when Sacred Kingdom tackles the Group Two Gome Cup (1,200m) on May 1, and he was understandably delighted.
'It's a great privilege - a real chance for me to win big races,' Cheng said after sweetening his weekend further with Super Plus and Shangdong General for Me Tsui Yu-sak and Lu Yue for Dennis Yip Chor-hong. 'I've never won a Group Two race so Sacred Kingdom will make history for me if he wins his next race but, of course, I want to win Group Ones on him when the chance comes.'
Cheng said Super Plus was just learning about racing after two starts but knew enough to kick again and win by a neck after Bejeweled came to beat him late in the second event over 1,000m, and Tsui has his eye on the three-year-old's future.
'He's smart but he's still quite young and immature so he will have a break now,' Tsui said. 'He's not as strong as he needs to be and I've been having trouble keeping condition on him.'
Tsui and Cheng completed a race-to-race double 30 minutes later when Shangdong General stormed to victory in the Harlech Handicap (1,200m) on the all-weather track, the fourth win from 14 outings for Shangdong General, but he, too, has a bit of work ahead to get the game right.
The trainer said the four-year-old was still a colt and that was proving tricky.
'He's a smart horse but his temperament is a problem,' Tsui said. 'Because he's a colt, he can suddenly switch off when he gets in behind horses. For that reason, I told Howard that it didn't matter if he was a bit wide but don't get in behind them - just keep pressing forward.'
Shangdong General had been an impressive barrier trial winner on the dirt 10 days ago and ran right up to that display under race conditions.
Cheng made it a treble on Lu Yue in the Class Two Guildford Handicap (1,800m) after getting the soft lead that never materialised in the Derby.
Lu Yue was the 'slaughtered horse' of the Derby, with visiting jockey Olivier Peslier forcing a fast pace from a wide gate after specific instructions from connections, but this time, Cheng was left with no rivals for the front position.