Beauty Generation, Elusive State and Clement Legend – those three horses might not be equals on the track, but they are all part of an exclusive club, at least for a few days.
They are the only gallopers to win four straight races in Hong Kong this season, Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Clement Legend joining the crew after a hard-fought victory in the Bowrington Handicap (2,200m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
There is a gulf between the trio – Beauty Generation is the prohibitive favourite for Sunday’s Group One Stewards’ Cup, Tony Millard is trying to get Elusive State to Dubai and this was only a Class Four win, but for the time being, the three share something in common. A little bit like the Sesame Street song “One of these things (is not like the others)”.
Clement Legend jumped at $1.8 in the opening race of the night and it took all of Karis Teetan’s encouragement to get him over the line, hitting the front in the shadows of the post.
A collective gasp at the Valley as Clement Legend flashes by in a 3-way finish; @KarisTeetan gets the 1.8 fav first across the line by a mere head. #HKracing #HappyWednesday pic.twitter.com/Z1c0Ggs84b— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 16, 2019
Despite the win, the trainer believes the four-year-old does his best work in the daytime, so he will switch him back to Sha Tin.
“He was a little bit cautious under the lights,” said Shum, who moved to outright second in the trainers’ championship with 27 wins.
“Hopefully next time I can run him on January 27 in a Class Four over 2,000m. I just need to see how he pulls up over the next few days and we’ll decide. I think he can win in Class Four again. He shouldn’t go up too many points for that.”
The jockey-trainer combination struck again with the heavily backed Clear Choice in the second section of the Class Four Percival Handicap (1,650m).
“His last run was a joke, he was four-deep throughout but still finished fifth,” Shum said. “So I gave him six weeks off at Conghua. He enjoyed the new environment so he was happy. It helped him.
“I was very confident tonight, I thought he had a great chance.”
While his other two winners were expected to run well, there was some surprise when Shum made it a treble, with Star of Joy saluting at 18-1 in the Class Three Wong Nai Chung Handicap (1,200m).
Grant van Niekerk settled the five-year-old midfield, before letting him down in the straight, running over the top of Powermax in the dying stages to score.
The win gave the South African hoop a double of his own, after piloting Millard’s C P Power to victory in the fourth event.
Grant van Niekerk grabs a double and Danny Shum makes it 3 on the night as Star Of Joy runs down Powermax to take R7: a deserved first win at start 21. #HKracing #HappyWednesday pic.twitter.com/08M6bUlDz6— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 16, 2019
The Craigengower Cricket Club Challenge Cup (1,200m) was the trophy event on the card, but there was a sense of deja vu as the horse who won last year prevailed again.
The connections of Navas can keep the silverware for another 12 months after their gelding rattled home between runners to claim the prize in a photo finish.
The margins were a nose (Dollar Reward) by a nose (Jolly Bountiful) – almost echoing his performance from last year when he got the chocolates by a short-head.
While it was another close call for the Richard Gibson-trained six-year-old, his record in Class Four is not to be sniffed at, with two wins and two placings from four starts.
“We always knew the horse, in Class Four, had a very good chance and we always knew it was going to be tight, just not that tight,” Gibson said.
Navas by a nose! Richard Gibson's 6yo wins the Craigengower Cricket Club Challenge Cup Handicap for the second year in a row as @zpurton completes a brace. #HKracing #HappyWednesday pic.twitter.com/DGYvJoRUtx— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 16, 2019
“He is a horse that runs well fresh, that is the key. He was beaten a nose at the beginning of the season in Class Four. Class Three next time, that is the test.”
Champion jockey Zac Purton was aboard Navas and he was one of three riders to collect a winning double after an earlier fast-finishing performance on Michael Chang Chun-wai’s Show Mission.
Caspar Fownes rolled the dice with his smart youngster Green Luck in the last race, needing a win to help him secure a start in Sunday week’s Classic Mile, but the gelding will have to wait for another leg of the four-year-old series after finishing second to Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Warm the Voice (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) in the Class Three Sports Road Handicap (1,650m), who surprised at 36-1.