Trainer David Hall hasn't had too many moments to cherish this season, but left Happy Valley on Wednesday night with the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union Cup after an upset victory by New Glory, and a big smile after Nicholson stamped himself as a future winner with a promising debut performance in a Class Four sprint.
At nearly 50-1 odds in the betting, punters weren't expecting anything extraordinary from the new import on his debut over the 1,000m.
He travelled third from rear for Derek Leung Ka-chun, straightened near the inside and flashed home nicely to finish a respectable eighth - 43/4 lengths off the runaway winner Vintage Hussler, but only two lengths off a placing over a distance clearly short of what he would want in the future.
The three-year-old had a good preparation going into the races, including a nice lead-up trial at this course on April 2.
Nicholson is by Niello and out of an unraced daughter by the Japan Cup winner Bubble Gum Fellow. Niello was a multiple winner from 1,100m to 2,000m in Australia, including the AJC Spring Champion Stakes, and a brother to the Australian champion Lonhro. He has had only one starter in Hong Kong in the sprint winner Groovy.
His dam Wrigley has produced one other foal to hit the track in the multiple short-course winner Swell, while his grand dam, a daughter of the speedy Zeditave, was a four-time winner from 1,200m to 1,428m, including a Group Three success over the 1,200m at the Brisbane Racing Club in Australia. His maternal line is a very sprint-oriented family.
The decent looking Australian-bred bay gelding weighs in at over 1,100m pounds with a smooth striding action, which should see him earn his oats when fully mature over 1,200m to a mile.
Hall likes to spread his rides around and it may be best to follow up on Nicholson when a senior rider is planted on the mount. Hall has rung up only 15 winners this season, but the experience of Brett Prebble (eight wins), Howard Cheng (two wins), Jeff Lloyd, Greg Cheyne and Brett Doyle have racked up 13 of those successes.
The Me Tsui Yu-sak-trained Strawberry may be able to escape the campaign with a win following another positive performance in the Class Three Tai Hang Tung Handicap (1,650m).
Strawberry climbed the ratings ladder from an initial mark of 67 to a peak of 80 last season for two wins and five placings at Happy Valley, but has been struggling since and has dropped to a mark of 62.
By the way the six-year-old stuck on, it looks likely the son of Indian Ridge is ready to do the job - with a race over the 1,800m at the city venue on May 25 on the cards.
David Hall has rung up this many winners from 251 runners: 15