Trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing left Happy Valley last night with a winning treble and with the enviable position of having the first three leading pointscorers in the Happy Valley Million Challenge for the season.
Shum landed victories with Lightning Pegasus (Neil Callan), Romantic Cash (Derek Leung Ka-chun) and Speedy Longwah (Callan) to dominate the back half of the card and claim the lead in the trainers’ championship.
But with Shum-trained General Iron the Million Challenge leader on 40 points before the meeting, first Romantic Cash (45 points) and then Speedy Longwah (51 points) passed him to give the yard a powerful position at about the halfway mark in the contest restricted to wins at Happy Valley.
“At the start of this season, I thought that Romantic Cash and Speedy Longwah looked ideal horses to target the Million Challenge,” Shum explained. “They were both rated down near 60 so they were horses who were at the minimum level for the competition but also I thought had the potential to win several races in the season.”
That has proved to be true, with last night’s victory the third on end for Romantic Cash and Speedy Longwah’s third from five appearances this term.
“There is still some way to go, though, I would like to get another win, or even two, with them to feel safer,” Shum said.
Positions for the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship were finalised, with Leung’s win on Romantic Cash giving him the position representing the local freelance jockeys on December 9 as he moved clear of suspended Keith Yeung Ming-lun. The pair had been tied on seven wins and Yeung would have won with a greater number of seconds had Leung not broken the deadlock and he will now participate in the IJC for the first time.
Joao Moreira’s position as Hong Kong’s chief representative was already nailed down but with two more Hong Kong-based jockeys competing this year, that was decided by the number of wins to the end of last night’s card and Douglas Whyte and Brett Prebble will now pull on the bauhinia silks.
Zac Purton ‘borrowed’ a winner from Callan, Caspar Fownes-trained Master Steed, with the ride of the night successful in the divided race.
Callan, who had been the horse’s rider, was unable to commit to the mount with the race being split so Purton took the mount and the win but fell one short for the IJC spot after Prebble had earlier won the Class Five on promoted reserve Our Honour.
“I did ask Brett to ride the horse in this race but then I didn’t put a trump on him in the entries and he ended up a reserve,” trainer Chris So Wai-yin said. “He has been in good form so I was happy to see him get in but even happier when the steward told me he had barrier one as well.”
It wasn’t all rosy for Prebble, though, as he was suspended for two separate incidents in race six aboard Strong Foundation and will miss three meetings from December 16. He wasn’t the only rider to fall foul of the stewards, with Gerald Mosse suspended for three meetings for causing interference on Fruitful Champion in race two and Karis Teetan out for the same period for careless riding in race seven on Red Kylin.
French rider Gregory Benoist opened his Hong Kong account after only 19 rides when he shocked punters on 50-1 winner Idyllic Wind in the third, and for trainer Gary Ng Ting-keung, the win was just as momentous.
It gave seven-year-old Idyllic Wind three successive victories at his only three runs this season – the first time Ng has had a horse win three straight since Master Able nine years ago.