Military attack steals the show
John Moore already has a host of Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby hopefuls, but possibly the least-heralded of his nominations burst into calculations for the big race with a brilliant first-up win at Happy Valley last night.
Dennis Yip Chor-hung trained a treble and three jockeys had doubles, but it was Military Attack who stole the show in the last race when Darren Beadman drove him to an authoritative and ratings-boosting Class Two win over 1,650m.
Moore has five horses in Sunday's Hong Kong Classic Cup (1,800m), the traditional lead-up to the Derby (March 18), but with Military Attack starting off a mark of 89, the trainer preferred a run at the Valley, where he had trialled impressively.
'We knew he'd be competitive if he ran up to that trial,' Moore said. 'He'll run again on March 4 over 1,800m and then on to the Derby. Out of the four-year-olds we bought, he was the one with the most upside. His record was good, but there was still improvement there.'
Beadman was talking up the import's toughness after the win.
'He's got a bit of spunk about him, but he is also a tough horse,' he said. 'I made him run through to the line, and sometimes the English horses feel that, but he stood up to it. John had the right idea to bring him here and trial him because he knew where he was tonight.'
Yip's three wins included one of the night's features, The Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Challenge Cup (1,650m), with Ho Ho Life, ridden by Douglas Whyte, who also saluted aboard Flying Chaparral in a Class Three.
'He's not an easy horse to ride, but Douglas knows the horse well and has been on him in all four of his wins,' said Yip, who also scored with Lucky Army (Howard Cheng Yu-tin).
Whyte said Flying Chaparral had gone 'stale' earlier in the season and a freshen-up by Peter Ng Bik-kuen paid off. 'I would have been unlucky to lose, I got caught behind the leader at the wrong time,' Whyte said.
It was Zac Purton's hands Yip was praising after Bespoke Master broke through for his first win in 20 starts over 1,200m.
'The horse just looked more comfortable for Zac,' said Yip, who added that the horse may be stepped up in trip again after the grinding short-head victory.
'Once he jumped and got that spot in the run I was surprised that he travelled well, he usually gets his head up in the air, especially when you try to hold him. We tried him over a mile but he travelled too keen, but we might try and go back to the longer distances.'
The win brought up a double for Purton after he had won the opening event on Flying Keeper. Purton's brace took him to 28 wins, which includes seven victories in the five meetings so far this month, and moved him into second in the Jockeys' Championship. He moved ahead of injured Brett Prebble, who will be out for more than a month with a fractured collarbone.
Neil Callan's current tenure is coming to a close; he has one more meeting remaining after he serves a two-meeting suspension, and he grabbed a double, including the Police Cup on impressive looking newcomer Legendary Dragon.
The Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained four-year-old made it back-to-back wins on a seven day back up, with the trainer claiming there will be natural improvement.
'It's all a big game to him at the moment,' Yiu said. 'He's learning all the time, just looking around at everything. We'll give him a rest now.'
Earlier in the day stewards concluded an adjourned inquiry into Vincent Ho Chak-yiu's fall in a race at Sha Tin last Sunday, which resulted in the apprentice fracturing an arm.
Stewards concluded that no other jockey was to blame for in the incident that saw Gurus Dream fall when pressed for a run between horses and Ho was advised 'to exercise due care and judgement when deciding to continue into tight runs.'