Trainer David Hall will be tempted to throw former German stayer Andoyas in the deep end if he can gain a start in the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup at the end of the month after landing a hat-trick of wins at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Andoyas, the first leg of a double for Zac Purton when he won the Singapore Turf Club Trophy (2,200m), had been winless for his first two campaigns and Hall said his owners had become somewhat discouraged.
“He probably isn’t the perfect horse for Hong Kong – he prefers a bit of give in the ground and he’s a stayer – and the owners were thinking maybe they should retire the horse last year when he hadn’t won,” Hall said. “But I thought he was still a chance this season with more maturity mentally and that’s how it has turned out.
“Because he wants a distance, there aren’t many opportunities for him and it means he doesn’t run that often, but he has been very genuine and put his hand up every time he’s gone to the races this season. You always have to be happy with a horse that can win three in a season and he’s done it from five starts.”
With winning margins of a nose, a short-head and a neck, Andoyas has helped himself with the handicapper but it might mean he has to roll the dice now on being out of the handicaps if Hall goes to the Queen Mother Memorial Cup.
“Maybe it’s out of his reach but there’s nothing to lose if he goes there. The 2,400m should suit, he’ll have no weight and if he doesn’t do that, there’s almost no race for him until the very end of the season,” Hall said. “And if he happened to get a wet track and a small field maybe he could surprise.”
Purton later added Winner’s Way for Tony Cruz, as the four-year-old became yet another of the classic four-year-olds to step back into Class Two and make mincemeat of the opposition, but he had endured a frustrating night early with seconds in three of the first four races.
One of those came with Game Of Fun, who did some work in the run before being overhauled by the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained Fine With Me, who gave jockey Alvin Ng Ka-chun just his second victory this season – the other being in late September.
“It was a welcome win for Alvin but for me too,” smiled Lui, but neither of them had waited as long as the horse’s syndicate of owners.
Fine With Me showed promise as a two-year-old without winning but developed leg problems and has had little racing since, last night’s outing only his 11th in two years of racing.
“He started as a two-year-old and he was too young,” Lui said. “He had problems and had some long breaks but maybe in the end that time off will help him. I feel he is maturing now, he is physically stronger and handling racing better.”
With Joao Moreira absent through suspension, Purton and Douglas Whyte shared the riding honours, with the latter leading throughout on Prince Harmony for Chris So Wai-yin and later on Healthy Luck for Manfred Man Ka-leung.
“Healthy Luck is a nice horse for next season,” Man said. “He is only three, he has won two races already but he will be stronger after the summer. Tonight, the jockey did a good job, getting the rail, saving ground and controlling the race.”
Opening winner Oriental Fantasia (Dylan Mo Hin-tung) also got to control his race but nobody saw that coming, not even his trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak.
“I thought we would be following the favourite, Rugby Diamond, but when he missed the start, my horse was left in the lead, with a 10 pound claim and he didn’t have to work hard,” Tsui said. “He had a break after his last race in December and that was important tonight. The other horses in the race have been doing plenty of racing lately, so my horse was the fresh one.”