After promising the world last season and delivering an atlas early this campaign, Chris So Wai-yin preached patience with the talented Classic Unicorn and he was rewarded with a scintillating performance at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Classic Unicorn burst onto the scene with two stunning wins down the Sha Tin straight, running his rivals ragged and clocking slick times in the process. It looked like he had the potential to join the ranks of Hong Kong’s elite sprinters.
But after being rolled as a $1.40 favourite in October and running poorly again second-up, So opted to give him a little break and send him to Conghua for two months to try to get his head right.
So thought time was the key and when the four-year-old returned to the track last month for his Happy Valley debut, he put in a much better effort, finishing fourth to Allied Agility.
Classic Unicorn clearly took plenty of confidence from the run, returning to the city track and blowing his rivals away by four lengths in the Class Three Kam Tin River Handicap (1,000m) under the guidance of Derek Leung Ka-chun.
The result was a big relief to his trainer.
“It’s been a long time coming,” So said. “Early this season he was quite disappointing. Last year, everyone thought he might be a superstar.
“He won those two races well and his time was good but mentally he still wasn’t there. He was very stressed after that second win, he wasn’t happy.
“The first two races this season, he copped a squeeze and he wasn’t comfortable – he didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t know how to run.
“I told the owner that we would give him a small break, some more time to learn. He just needed to mature.
“His last run at Happy Valley was good, but this time he’s improved a lot and had a good draw. He won by a couple of lengths tonight. Hopefully he can fulfil his potential.”
The fight for the jockeys’ championship remains tied with Zac Purton and Joao Moreira each collecting a double to take their totals to 119 winners for the term.
The Magic Man landed his brace thanks to the Caspar Fownes-trained Lightning Steed and John Size’s Shining Ace, who took out the best race on the card, the Class Two Ho Chung River Handicap (1,200m).
The Australian rated Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Golden Dash beautifully to capture the Class Three Lam Tsuen River Handicap (1,200m), while also ensuring the often frustrating Dionysus Collin finally broke his maiden in the Class Four Tan Shan River Handicap (1,800m).
The Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained four-year-old got the result at his 20th start, despite starting $6.70 or shorter in each of his 10 most recent starts.
David Ferraris’ three-year-old Here Comes Ted only had to wait half the time, notching his first success at his 10th run with Karis Teetan in the saddle.
Flying Bonus, from the Dennis Yip Chor-hong yard, also snatched his maiden Hong Kong win with apprentice Alfred Chan Ka-hei leading all the way in the second section of the Class Four Shan Pui River Handicap (1,200m).
Peter Ho Leung took one more step towards the minimum performance benchmark when Dylan Mo Hin-tung guided Magnificent to victory in the seventh event.
Trainers in Hong Kong need at least 16 winners (18 if you have also have a stable at Conghua) to avoid a strike (three and you’re out) and the result lifted Ho to 13 for the term with 15 meetings to go.
The other winner on the night was the well-backed Bullish Brother, who prevailed for the Tony Cruz and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu combination.
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