A Frustrated-Fat Turtle double helped ease any BMW Hong Kong Derby nerves Frankie Lor Fu-chuen had at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Lor has three live chances in Sunday’s HK$18 million feature – Dark Dream, Furore and Mission Tycoon – and given this is the first time he’s had a runner in Hong Kong’s most prestigious race, it would be understandable if the second-season trainer was a little on edge.
But the affable Lor is taking it all in his stride, going about his business as per usual.
“It’s nice to get two winners,” Lor laughed. “It’s going to be a big day on Sunday. I’m not too nervous at the moment, but that may be different on race day.”
A better barrier proved the difference for Frustrated with apprentice Victor Wong Chun taking advantage of the inside gate to guide the three-year-old to victory.
Frustrated had shown ability at the trials, so the trainer felt it was just a matter of time – he would find a winner with some more experience and a little more luck.
“His first two starts he had drawn 11 and they really weren’t good for the new horse, this time he’s drawn two and I put the boy on,” Lor said. “He jumped a little bit slow but was able to follow the leader and got the job done.
“I’ll probably give him one more run here [at Happy Valley] first. It looks like he handles the track well and he’s only a small horse so it should suit him.”
Fat Turtle also broke through for his maiden Hong Kong win, the four-year-old winning three of his six races in Australia before continuing that good form on debut in his new home.
Zac Purton settled Fat Turtle, who had also trialled very well, just outside the leader and he kicked clear in the straight, holding off Split Of A Second and Sparkling Dragon in the last race.
“I thought he would run well because he had a good draw. The only concern was this was his first time at Happy Valley, but he looked OK,” Lor said.
“I think he can handle a little bit further, 1,400m or 1,600m shouldn’t be a problem for him. I hope he can continue to improve.”
One horse who had to wait a little bit longer for his first victory was Alpha Hedge from the Francis Lui Kin-wai stable, who saluted at his 13th start.
The five-year-old Irish import had been racing in good form this season – being beaten two lengths or less in five of his starts, before a tough run broke that streak last month.
The Vincent Ho-Francis Lui combo strikes again! Alpha Hedge rolls over the top to win the EWO Challenge Trophy. Ho has ridden 13 of Lui's 16 winners this season. #HKracing #HappyWednesday pic.twitter.com/xTQHjx49ZA— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 13, 2019
But Vincent Ho Chak-yiu was able to get the best out of him in the Class Four EWO Challenge Trophy (1,650m), sitting just off the speed before running over the top of his rivals late.
“He’s always been close. Last time when Joao [Moreira] rode, he was just unlucky – he was three-wide and had to make a move early,” Lui said. “This time, I think Vincent had the experience – he’s ridden the horse a lot and got the best out of him.”
The win gave Lui his 16th winner of the season, but it has been a tough one in terms of results when you consider he’s also had 52 placings.
“We’ve had lots of seconds so it’s always good to get a winner,” he said.
Continuing the theme of breakthroughs was the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Lucky Girl, who returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since November 15, 2017.
It was also a drought-breaker for jockey Grant van Niekerk, whose last win came with King Opie – the second reserve for the Derby – on January 27.
“I told Grant to be patient, Lucky Girl has won on a rating of 82 before, just settle him midfield,” Shum said. “This is not a strong field, just concentrate and be patient. He’s a good jockey, just someone had to remind him.”
Tony Cruz was the other stand-out performer on the night, collecting a double with Bullish Brother (Matthew Poon Ming-fai) and Blitzing (Karis Teetan).