Trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai may have lost his stable stalwart Longwah Supreme to Caspar Fownes, but he has unearthed a smart one in Winning Apex.
In a market dominated by Mentor, Quantum Power and Best Eleven in the Class Three Grassy Hill Handicap (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, Winning Apex jumped as a 21-1 fourth pick for Olivier Doleuze.
Winning Apex made his run at the rear after bumping with Viva Fighter, was still about six lengths down rounding the final bend before responding nicely to finish 41/2 lengths away in fifth behind Best Eleven, Longwah Rising, Mentor and Quantum Power.
He had caught the eye in his workouts and closed off nicely under his own steam in his only trial 15 days ago down the Sha Tin straight course.
Winning Apex arrived off a mark of 67 after six starts in New Zealand for trainer John Sargent as Foralltosee - placing three times on good, soft and yielding ground from 1,200m to 1,600m at Pukekohe and Te Rapa from his first five starts, before sitting outside the speed and kicking clear by a widening 61/2 lengths to win at Te Rapa in his final start over 1,600m on a heavy track with blinkers.
The four-year-old is a son of the MVRC WS Cox Plate Stakes and AJC Spring Champion Stakes winner Savabeel, who also sired two local maiden and once-placed performers Felarof and Elephant Cheers; mated to the Felix The Cat mare Unearthed, a double New Zealand winner at 1,400m and 1,600m and third in the 2003 New Zealand 1,000 Guineas behind Taatletail from 23 starts.
Unearthed's only other foal to race, Fromelles, is a full sister to Winning Apex. She has been a consistent performer with three wins from 1,350m to 1,600m and eight placings up to 2,147m from her 22 starts in New Zealand.
Stepping back a few generations in her family tree, her fourth dam was the top French filly and Irish Oaks heroine Regal Exception, who is the dam of Group winning stayers Orban and Twilight Hour; and herself a daughter of the smart miler Rajput Princess, a Longchamp Poule d'Essai des Pouliches winner.
Winning Apex looks a precocious type who will get better with age on wet or fast going and with blinkers, which he wore in New Zealand.
He will be a nice bread-and-butter performer in Class Three and possibly the bottom of Class Two for his owner Ma Ren-de, who hasn't had a starter since the turn of the century when he was successful with the bottom grader, Money Star, in the hands of the then trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee.