Double happiness for trainer Lee
Almond Lee will chase the rich 1010 Million Challenge with Happy Valley specialist Happy Yeah Yeah after the under-rated sprinter's dominant victory at the city track last night, the second leg of a double for the trainer and his former apprentice Keith Yeung Ming-lun.
Happy Yeah Yeah scored his third win of the season at the course in a Class Three (1,200m), moving within two points of contest leader Mr Bond with five meetings remaining.
Points are awarded for races at Happy Valley in Class Three or above until the end of February in the 1010 Challenge, and Lee's horse has two remaining chances to press his claims for the HK$650,000 first prize.
The 1?-length win in good time (1:09.75), will propel the five-year-old into Class Two, but he will have to face Class One gallopers in an extended bracket (105-80) race over 1,000m on February 8. He could then line up in a 110-85 ratings bracket contest over 1,200m on the final night of the Challenge (February 29).
Lee was proclaiming his good luck after Happy Yeah Yeah's win, which followed another fortuitous victory for him earlier in the night when Happy Score was an upset winner in a class four. 'You either get no luck or all the luck in racing,' he said. 'Both the horses just had their races run tailor-made to suit.'
Happy Yeah Yeah drew 10, but Yeung somehow found the fence early and ended up with the run of the race on the 14-1 outsider.
'He won last start but this horse was those odds because he has won when he has good barriers. But then tonight, he draws 10 and ends up racing like he drew one,' Lee laughed.
'We'll try and win the challenge, I don't have any decisions to make as to where to take him, because there's only two eligible races. He is standing up to the racing so why not try?'
Happy Score's ?-length win in the Wong Nai Chung Handicap came courtesy of another patient ride by Yeung, who got a three-wide cart into the race after racing well back behind a muddling tempo.
'I thought his form was good but I wasn't sure that he would handle the Valley,' Lee said. 'And I thought there would be no pace ... a slowly run race would have ruined his chances, but the way the race was run, it turned out perfectly.'
Yeung's two wins took him to 19 for the season, but his night was soured when he was handed a two-meeting suspension for shifting out in the closing stages of the Percival Handicap on Ho Wongchoy.
The feature went to Ricky Yiu Poon-fai's improved sprinter Hawthorne, who overcame gate 10 in the Craigengower Cricket Club Cup (1,000m).
'The good thing about this horse is that he keeps improving, even though he has now had 20 starts,' Yiu said. 'He used to be one-dimensional, but now he is more mature.'
Yiu also had some kind words for jockey Terry Wong Chi-wai, who scored his sixth win of the season: 'I seldom put him on my horses, but he is very honest, he's aggressive, he's light and does what he is told.'
Caspar Fownes hopes the improving pre-race demeanour of Longwah Kid leads to more performances like last-night's breakthrough win in a Class Four.
'He finally stuck his neck out and won one,' Fownes said of the horse's first Hong Kong win in 17 starts, with Tye Angland producing a tidy ride from gate three. 'This horse is a bit of a handful in the mornings, but he seems to be turning it around,' Fownes added. 'That's the best he has paraded for me pre-race. I think he has finally learned that there's nothing to worry about.'
Brett Prebble returned from a four-meeting break in good style, landing a double as he bookended the programme with victories on board Ray's Favourite and Euro Swiftly.
Meanwhile, Andy Leung Ting-wah has appealed his record HK$250,000 fine delivered by stewards on Monday. Leung was charged under rule 150 for his role in the China Good ownership dispute.