Tony Millard believes Shimmer And Shine “could be a special horse” after the talented three-year-old showed some ticker to string together back-to-back wins at Sha Tin on Wednesday night.
While the nip and tuck in the jockeys’ championship continued at the all-dirt meeting, the two-win margin remains with both Joao Moreira and Zac Purton going home with a double, so it was Millard’s youngster who created the biggest impression.
Fresh off a victory down the Sha Tin straight on May 12, the trainer switched Shimmer And Shine to the all-weather track and the gelding handled it with aplomb considering he had to work for it.
Trapped deep from a wide barrier, he kept responding to the urgings of Chad Schofield despite the tough run to hold off Amazing Moment.
“That was a gut buster – you don’t get it much harder than that, he was three-wide no cover and he still had a little bit at the end,” Millard said.
“He kept finding – he really dug down. He’s still a baby – he came around the turn on the wrong leg so there is a huge amount of improvement in him still.
“He’s certainly come along the right way and I always thought we’d have an extra out with him being that he is versatile and that he could run on the dirt.
“But the way he won tonight, he could be something special so we’ll put him away now and we’ll look at next season.”
That win completed a running double for the stable with Cloud Nine winning the Class Four Pui O Handicap (1,800m) after sitting outside the early leader Megatron.
“He’s just a one-paced plodder and [Jack Wong Ho-nam] rode him exactly to instructions,” Millard said.
“It did him a favour being drawn out because when he’s drawn in he gets cut off because he doesn’t have early speed, so it actually worked in his favour.”
That brought up the stable’s 32nd winner of the term and Millard is hoping to finish off in a flurry.
“A lot of my horses are doing very well, I haven’t killed them during the season,” he said. “So between now and the end of the season it could be happy times for us.”
Both of Millard’s wins formed part of doubles for the jockeys who rode them, with Schofield claiming the opening event with Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Massive Millennium, while Wong also prevailed on House Of Luck for Francis Lui Kin-wai.
That ensured four jockeys collected two wins each with Moreira (Infinity Endeavour and Speedy King) and Purton (Dr Proactive and Glorious Artist) also taking their share.
One horse who broke through for a deserved victory was David Hall’s Dr Proactive.
The four-year-old had been around the mark this season without winning but everything fell into place in the second section of the Class Four Hap Mun Bay Handicap (1,200m).
“If we couldn’t win tonight off barrier one, Zac aboard and getting the charmed run we were going to be a bit disappointed,” Hall said.
“It was a bit of relief and it showed that he’s always had the potential to win one and we got that out of the way.
“On the line was the strongest part of his race so going forward he might be able to stretch to 1,650m so that will make things easier for him to get one or two more wins.
“I think Happy Valley is still a good option for him and the dirt is there so I’m sure we’ll be able to place him to advantage.”
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai also said things worked out well for the honest Speedy King.
“He’s consistent – he’s run well on the dirt and the turf and he’s only had limited racing so I’ll see how he pulls up before deciding to put him in one more race this season or not,” he said.
“Last time we had a bad draw and had to use him up early, this time we had a better draw, he was in a good position with a better jockey on him.”
Keith Yeung Ming-lun was the only jockey to earn the wrath of stewards, suspended for two meetings for his ride on Massive Move in the fourth race.