Hong Kong punters have piled in to deliver record turnover for the opening day of the season.

A total of HK$1.376 billion was bet on the 10-race card at Sha Tin on Sunday, delighting Jockey Club officials who had spent most of the off-season negotiating with government for ways to keep racing continuing in the face of a third wave of Covid-19.

“We had the best start we could hope,” Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

Hong Kong punters delivered record turnover despite being locked out of Sha Tin.

“We were able to increase turnover despite the fact we had to close [off-course betting branches] for race day.

“Our turnover was HK$1.376 billion which is an increase of 6.83 per cent, this is a record high for the start of the season.”

The first day of the season saw the new forecast bet type offered to punters, with HK$38 million bet after heavy promotion by the Jockey Club.

What caught the eye of many was the switch to account betting by Hong Kong punters.

Last year, HK$270 million was bet in cash at both the racetrack and at off-course betting branches but with only a handful of people at Sha Tin on Sunday, that figure was slashed to HK$77 million.

Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges at Sha Tin on Sunday.

“Therefore HK$200 million had to go from cash into account betting and that shows the effort our team has made to facilitate that,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

“It shows the agility of our customers to adapt to this situation so it is an amazing result.”

Included in the bumper results was a 4.6 per cent jump in local turnover to HK$1.29 billion, while commingling increased 18 per cent to HK$247 million.

Size breaks opening day duck

John Size isn’t usually one to feature on the opening day of the season but the 11-time champion trainer pulled off a masterclass at Sha Tin on Sunday, marking one of his best ever starts to a new term.

The Australian struck with Leap Of Faith in the Class Four Ma On Shan Handicap (1,400m) with a familiar accomplice in Joao Moreira before the Brazilian produced a minor miracle to salute with Excellent Proposal in the Class Three Sunset Peak Handicap (1,400m).

The double broke an eight-year drought for Size, who had not tasted success on opening day since Douglas Whyte rode King Mossman to victory in 2011.

John Size after Excellent Proposal’s win at Sha Tin.

Excellent Proposal’s win capped a treble for Moreira, who kicked the season off in style winning on the Caspar Fownes-trained Joy Master in the first race of the season.

Excellent Proposal showed all the qualities of a potential four-year-old series challenger later in the year when he produced the win of the day, bursting through a gap late to win by the finest of margins.

“I didn’t think I was going to get there,” Moreira said of his ride on the four-year-old.

“Turning for home, the horse in front of him [Alcari] just wasn’t going forward and came back on me and dragged me back a little bit. He showed he’s a good horse having to deal with such a situation and was able to come back and still get there.

“What I would say about him is that he feels like one of those potential kind of horses. He has shown us he does have a lot of ability. I’m happy, it’s good to get on the board with three.”

Size echoed Moreira’s words, saying he hoped to improve the former Australian-trained galloper’s rating to lock in a position for the lucrative series, which kicks off in January.

“He needs the rating, he should be around 85 now so we will give him a couple of races,” he said.

“He had plenty of horses around him today so he was lucky to find a way out.”

Despite being sent out as a $13 chance by punters, Leap Of Faith won more like an odds-on favourite when he attacked the line despite being wide for the majority of the trip.

Joao Moreira pushes out Leap Of Faith to win at Sha Tin.

“Leap Of Faith is a horse with ability too. No doubt he’s one of those horses John Size may feel comfortable, in the near future, to step him up in distance as he moves like a horse who could run a mile,” Moreira said.

“Once again, it shows the Size style of training a horse, putting them away and giving then the time that they need pays off. I think that was the key to him winning today.”