If international raiders needed further proof of Hong Kong’s dearth of top-line sprinters, they got it on Sunday when the revitalised Wishful Thinker caused a boilover in the Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m).
Sent out a $45 outsider, Wishful Thinker swamped his rivals late to grab favourite Computer Patch ($2.40) on the line to highlight the lack of depth among the ranks.
The Australian import had not won since March 2019 and was transferred to Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s stable at the end of last season in an attempt to resuscitate his career.
Jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun believes a decision to take the blinkers off the fast-finisher proved the difference.
“We didn’t think the blinkers helped him at all, so we took them off, kept him fresh and he went well, there was plenty of pace so he could finish off,” he said. “I asked them to take them off and everyone agreed, it worked in the end.
“Last time he had an incident at the beginning then he had to chase the winner through the middle stages so he used too much petrol up, he couldn’t finish.
“Today the track suited the horses coming from behind, the weight was different, we had much less than last time.”
Yip was unwilling to share what had changed for the seven-year-old, refusing to do any post-race interviews despite tasting his sweetest success since Secret Weapon won the Group Two Jockey Club Cup (2,000m) four years ago.
His last major win before that came with Go Baby Go in 2013, when he won the Group Three Sha Sprint Trophy (1,000m) and Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1,000m).
Wishful Thinker came out on top in a small field of seven – none who have a Group One victory between them.
A similar line-up is expected in five weeks for the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m), with defending Hong Kong Sprint winner Beat The Clock in a race against time to be fit and boom prospect Aethero out of action after suffering a setback while recovering from a bad bleed.
Computer Patch was expected to fill the void but will need to improve on Sunday’s run, where he led them up under Karis Teetan with just 117 pounds on his back.
“He came out so well and got to the front without doing much work but he was very green out there,” he said.
“In the straight, I believe if a horse came next to him, it would have encouraged him to go again. He never stopped, I just think the way the race panned out, I would have liked someone to be alongside him.”
The win was Leung’s sixth of the term and is his first feature-race success since Mission Tycoon won the Classic Cup in 2019.
The 32-year-old has enjoyed a strong start to the season and believes he is on the right horses often enough to further his tally going forward.
“I’ve had a few winners, you’re always hoping there's more to come but the horses I’m working in the morning feel good,” he said.