Ricky Yiu Poon-fai passed 50 winners in a season for the first time and strengthened his grip on the Hong Kong trainers’ championship with a treble at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The 62-year-old is enjoying the best campaign of his career – which began in 1995-96 – and now he holds a four-win lead over Francis Lui Kin-wai thanks to the performances of Megatron, Team Power and Mighty Giant.
Yiu’s tally of 51 eclipses his previous best of 49 in 2011-12 and with 34 meetings still to go, he will end up shattering that mark.
“People messaged me to let me know I’d broken my personal record,” Yiu said. “It’s a great achievement but if I win the premiership, then I’ll be more than happy.
“Winning these races today has given me a big kick, it’s put a bigger margin on Francis in second. I definitely believe I have a good enough string to go on and win the title.”
Megatron got things rolling as apprentice Alfred Chan Ka-hei collected his first winner since March 1, leading from barrier to box in the Class Four Somerset Handicap (1,650m).
The in-form Chad Schofield kept it going with Team Power – the final leg of his own treble – in the Class Four Norfolk Handicap (1,400m), before Zac Purton guided odds-on favourite Mighty Giant to victory in the Class Three Dorset Handicap (1,400m) to close out the card.
The latter, who has now strung together four wins and two seconds from his past six starts, was the most impressive of the trio, coming away to score by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
“During the run there were a couple of worrying moments,” Purton said. “He was a bit sluggish from the gate with the big weight and there were a couple of quick horses that pressed forward so I really had to ride him along for the first 300-350m to get that spot.
“The pace stayed on for most of the race and then the leader [Smoothies] kicked for home early, the horse in front of me started to give ground and dragged me back a touch.
“He had to dig deep to get out after him – he did a good job. On the line it looked soft but it felt like it was hard work.”
Chad Schofield surges towards best Hong Kong season: ‘I feel like I’m riding as well as I ever have’
Purton is confident the four-year-old can continue his climb up the ratings now in Class Two.
“I can’t see why not – he’s very honest and genuine. He’s got a great racing style where he gets up on the speed and is suited by fast-run races,” he said.
“There’s a lot to like about him, he’s still relatively inexperienced and even though he’s a big horse, he’s still a bit of a baby. He should be able to take the next step and I’d love to see him at a mile as well.”
It was Purton’s only winner for the day, but it helps keep him in touching distance of his rival Joao Moreira in the jockeys’ championship, who is now three clear after joining Yiu and Schofield in taking home a treble.
The Magic Man enjoyed success with Caspar Fownes’ Defining Moment, the Chris So Wai-yin-trained Foodie Princess and Fantasy, from the Danny Shum Chap-shing yard.
It was another good day for Moreira, but it was almost a monster as he also had four seconds.
“If I can keep on winning races like today I’ll be extremely happy,” the Brazilian superstar said.
Purton can bridge that gap at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, with Moreira on the sidelines as he is suspended for the meeting.