Michael Chang Chun-wai barely scraped past the minimum win benchmark last season but has begun this term with a bang, a double on Sunday taking the popular horseman to four wins already.
Je Pense (Chad Schofield) and Star Superior (Joao Moreira) scored at Sha Tin to give Chang a solid foundation for 2017-18 after a disappointing campaign.
Chang said nothing has changed in his preparation and that the early success is simply a case of his horses being well handicapped.
“Honestly, all of my horses go to the races looking good, always well prepared, it’s just the ratings,” he said. “Last season I was the same, the horses were high rated.”
Like many of Chang’s horses, Je Pense was finding form in the summer, losing by a short head at the final meeting of last season.
Moreira then won the second race of this season on Je Pense, electing to get off the horse to ride King Bountiful and leaving Schofield to collect a Class Four victory on the six-year-old.
“I think he can win another race as well,” Chang said, with the trainer saying the horse’s longer finishing sprint meant he would be kept to Sha Tin for now.
It was Schofield’s first win for Chang after seven previous tries for the stable and he hopes he can continue his association with the trainer’s rejuvenated stayer.
“He’s really turned the corner. He’s a horse who helps himself in the run, he just goes to sleep,” Schofield said. “Normally he hits a flat spot when you go for him but today he was really on song and went through his gears nicely and won pretty well.”
It was a mostly disappointing day for Joao Moreira, with the superstar jockey beaten on a slew of favourites and earning a two-day suspension for not riding Autopay right to the line in race five.
The Brazilian bounced back in the following event, Chang lauding the three-time champion jockey’s “perfect” ride on dirt tracker Star Superior.
Going against the apparent on-pace pattern that had showed earlier in the day on the all-weather track, Moreira executed Chang’s instructions beautifully.
“Joao rode the perfect race, from barrier 12 and carrying the top weight of 132 pounds,” Chang said. “I said to him, ‘you cannot chase or force this horse into the contest’. He was a long way back, but I had told him jump, relax him, let him travel last if that’s where he is and save some ground on the bend.
“I thought they would go too fast, there was a lot of speed in the race. It was a lovely ride though, he saved a lot of ground on the turn.”