A plan months in the making came off as Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Doctor Geoff landed a plunge to capture the Group Three January Cup at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
The six-year-old has an affinity for the 1,800m circuit at the city track – all three of his wins in Hong Kong have come in his three attempts at the course and distance – and punters piled in late expecting him to come out on top in the competitive event.
Doctor Geoff was “green lamped” into $4.3 late, starting second elect behind Macau raider Sacred Capital, who jumped a $3.6 favourite, while Southern Legend, Harmony Victory and Time Warp also started single-figure odds.
Vincent Ho Chak-yiu had Doctor Geoff positioned perfectly behind regular front-runner Time Warp, before making his move at the top of the straight, holding off the late challenge of the fast-finishing Harmony Victory, while Sacred Capital edged through on the inside to grab third.
Lui first put plans in place for this race back in early October and it paid off in spades.
“We targeted this race – we had two barrier trials to make sure he was at full fitness,” Lui said. “He likes the track and the distance and the light weight was perfect.
“We had everything ready for him to perform his best in this race.”
The challenge for the trainer now is to find the next winnable contest for the Irish import, given races for horses with his sort of rating (about 110) are limited.
“Difficult,” he acknowledged. “I’ll have to check the programme. His rating makes it tricky.”
The win continues a purple patch for Lui, who is second in the trainers’ championship with 25 wins, while it gives him two Group victories in eight days after Golden Sixty took out the Chinese Club Challenge Cup on New Year’s Day. His previous stakes winner was Lucky Bubbles in the 2017 Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
“Hopefully it can keep going,” said Lui, who will also saddle up leading Classic Mile hopes in Golden Sixty and More Than This later this month. “It’s nice to get another Group winner.”
While all honours were with Doctor Geoff, Macau trainer Joe Lau was happy with Sacred Capital’s effort to finish in the placings.
“It was a pleasing run. The speed probably wasn’t there, they ran a bit slow, the winner came from second and I was trapped back running fifth,” Lau said of his stable star, who became the first visitor to run at Happy Valley since Group racing was opened up at the start of the 2016-17 season.
“When he came round the bend and stuck to the inside he looked a chance. I was more than happy with the run but I wish there was a bit more speed in front.”
The win was the first of a double for Ho, who also guided Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s World Famous to victory in the following event.
Jimmy Ting Koon-ho was another to have a big night, continuing his exceptional Happy Valley form as Polymer Luck, What A Legend and Baby saluted to give him a treble.
Ting is starting to creep into Caspar Fownes’ territory as “King of the Valley”, with 13 of his 17 winners this season coming at the city track.
What A Legend was particularly impressive, backing up his soft win in November with another convincing performance, this time with Chad Schofield in the saddle. He is now undefeated in two starts sporting blinkers.
Polymer Luck completed a double for the in-form Grant van Niekerk, who also took out the opener aboard Me Tsui Yu-sak’s Good For You.
Zac Purton was the third jockey to snare two winners on the night, prevailing on Shouson and Joyful Union.