There were plenty of highs and lows across Hong Kong’s 2018-19 season. The Post recaps the marathon 89-meeting campaign.
Grant van Niekerk and Jimmy Ting combine for opening day glory.
You could not have written the script any better.
Van Niekerk and Ting combined in the first race of the season on Triumphant Jewel to pull off an incredible plunge.
Van Niekerk motored home from the rear of the field to win on the 67-start veteran who had not saluted for more than a year.
Ting went on to win again on the day with Richcity Fortune, while Van Niekerk bookended the card with a last-to-first effort on Tony Millard’s World Record.
Joao Moreira returns to Hong Kong
Moreira left the Jockey Club scrambling when he announced he would be leaving Hong Kong at the end of last season to pursue a full-time riding gig in Japan.
But the move was almost over before it began, with Moreira returning to Hong Kong in December after he was unable to pass the stringent JRA test to secure a full-time licence in Japan.
Teaming up with John Size as a stable rider, the pair enjoyed considerable success together, with Moreira rocketing to second on the jockeys’ standings and Size winning the trainers’ championship.
The three-time champion is set to challenge Zac Purton for the throne again next season with the Jockey Club granting him a full-time licence, meaning he will not be restricted in what he can ride.
Tye Angland fall
The Australian jockey was seriously injured in a sickening fall at Sha Tin during a one-off meeting on November 25.
Angland was left quadriplegic after the fall on the John Moore-trainer Go Beauty Go, which happened after the horse stumbled while leaving the barriers.
The father of three is one of the most popular figures in the jockeys’ room and had spent considerable time in Hong Kong during a successful tenure which yielded 140 winners.
The racing community has since rallied around Angland and his family in their time of need.
Hong Kong sweeps HKIR
Hong Kong-based horses were the stars of the show at December’s Longines Hong Kong International Races.
For the first time in the event’s history, the Bauhinia flag flew proudly as the hometown gallopers took out the four Group Ones on the card.
Glorious Forever (Hong Kong Cup), Beauty Generation (Mile), Mr Stunning (Sprint) and Exultant (Vase) held off a contingent of international raiders to etch their name in history.
While the Japanese managed to run second in three of the races, they got the revenge later in the season, returning to win the Group One FWD QE II Cup (2,000m) with Win Bright.
Frankie Lor sweeps four-year-old series
The sophomore trainer enjoyed a golden run in Hong Kong racing’s most prized series.
Lor was the star of the show in 2018-19, taking out the Classic Mile, Classic Cup and Hong Kong Derby, completing a clean sweep of the series with two different horses.
Lor took an arsenal of four-year-olds into January’s Classic Mile but no one could have predicted the dominance that would follow.
Furore bolted in under Australian jockey Hugh Bowman in the Classic Mile before Mission Tycoon ($92) caused a boilover in the Classic Cup but Lor saved his best for last.
Furore returned for the Derby and, despite Waikuku and Dark Dream preferred ahead of him in the market, he bolted clear under Bowman to take out the HK$18 million prize.
Douglas Whyte retires after 1,813 wins
The Jockey Club caused shock waves when they announced the most successful jockey in Hong Kong’s history would stop riding and take up training.
Whyte enjoyed a glittering career in the saddle, racking up 1,813 wins but was more than happy to give it up to move on to the second phase of his racing career, training.
Whyte has already made his presence felt as Hong Kong’s newest trainer, attracting a number of stable transfers off his rivals along with some highly prized overseas imports.
Racing in China
The Jockey Club broke new ground in March, racing in mainland China for the first time at their landmark Conghua facility.
While there was no gambling allowed, the Jockey Club ran the event as a regular race day, offering full prize money and statistics for the five races.
Richard Gibson became the first trainer to win at the new facility with Nordic Warrior taking out the first race under jockey Matthew Chadwick.
Beauty Generation sets record of eight straight victories in a season
Beauty Generation completed his perfect season in fashion while winning the Group One Champions Mile.
In doing so, he became the first horse to ever win eight straight races in a Hong Kong season and set a new benchmark when it comes to prize money earnings as well, eclipsing Viva Pataca’s mark of H$83,197,500 with ease.
The easy victory was fitting for the John Moore-trained galloper who was the standout horse in Hong Kong all season and sets the scene for 2019-20 where Moore will look to extend his unbeaten run.
Purton’s 1,000th winner
Champion jockey Zac Purton smashed just about every record possible in 2018-19 so it was fitting he also notched up his 1,000th in Hong Kong in the same season.
The Australian finished the season with 168 winners, but it was his one on Thanks Forever in June that brought up the magic number.
Purton joined Whyte as the only jockeys to reach 1,000 wins and there is sure to be plenty more to come.
To add to his list of achievements, Purton also became the first jockey to win seven Group Ones in Hong Kong in a single season.
Incredibly, his seven victories came from just two horses in Beauty Generation and Exultant.