After going more than three months between winners, trainer Peter Ho Leung is preaching patience as he tries to rebuild his stable.
The 60-year-old endured the worst season of his career in 2019-20, finishing with just 15 winners and as a consequence his stable numbers have dropped significantly with just 31 horses on the books.
Ho was the last trainer to get off the mark, suffering through a long run of outs before securing that elusive winner with his 50th runner of the campaign.
Veteran stayer Amazing Agility was the one to break through, collecting the Class Five Tin Sam Handicap (2,000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The relief on Ho’s face was there for everyone to see.
“It’s a precious moment,” he said. “It’s been very hard to get a winner.”
Ho revealed he had targeted this race with Amazing Agility after the opening day of the term and was grateful Karis Teetan kept the faith.
“In Hong Kong, you need a good horse and a good jockey willing to help you and Karis is very good,” Ho said. “After the first run on the first day, I called him and said ‘I’m going to run him in this race, please ride him, I think he can win’ and he did. So a big thanks to him for his patience, because he has other horses he can choose.
“He kept his promise and I kept my promise too.”
Ho is bracing for another challenging season and while he has some nice horses coming up from New Zealand, they won’t solve the problem immediately and the cupboard remains pretty bare.
“They are not Ferraris or Lamborghinis and can go fast straightaway, they are horses and they need time,” Ho said. “I think this season will still be tough for me. I’ve got to be patient and just work slowly. I can’t screw up everything. As a trainer, patience is good.
“If you want to get results and get all the positive things too quickly, you will hurt the horse and kill the confidence of the owner. So I just have to take it step-by-step. It’s not easy, but it’s Hong Kong, I’m used to it. I’ve still got my self-confidence.
“Hopefully the horses can come right and more and more winners come.”
Will Power gives Teetan treble
Speaking of Teetan, the Mauritian was the stand-out jockey on the day, booting home three winners in total.
In addition to the opening race, Teetan captured the two races on the all-weather track as well, the first with Tony Millard’s Resolute and the second with the Douglas Whyte-trained Will Power in his return to Class Two.
“He’s a lovely horse. From the first day I sat on him, he’s just kept improving,” Teetan said.
“He’s a better horse this season – mentally and physically. Last season, if I had to put him in between horses like that, he wouldn’t have let down, but he’s learning. The good thing is, you can feel he’s getting better and that bodes well for the future.”
The 30-year-old is dominating on the dirt, winning five of the first 11 races on the surface this season.
Teetan now has 16 victories for the term, level with Zac Purton and five behind championship leader Joao Moreira – the two stars going winless on the day.
“It’s a great day when you get three winners,” Teetan said.
Lor’s Dreamer keeps on Winning
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen won’t be rushing rising star Winning Dreamer up the ratings just to take advantage of Hong Kong’s weak sprinting ranks.
The four-year-old extended his unbeaten run to four in the Class Three Pai Tau Handicap (1,200m) but his trainer is playing the long game and won’t press to try to secure a berth in December’s Hong Kong International Races.
“He’s only had four starts, so it’s a little early to be talking about Group Ones,” Lor said. “I don’t want to push him too hard. If everything goes well, we can have him running at the top level for two or three years.”
Despite pulling early, Winning Dreamer responded under pressure in the straight, holding off talented types Scores Of Fun and Chicken Dance to land the prize.
“I was a little bit worried about him having to carry 132 pounds, but it was no problem,” Lor said. “He jumped really fast and he over-raced a bit, once he had a horse to follow he settled down.”
Lor will now look at the programme for a 1,200m contest in Class Two, potentially stepping up to 1,400m if nothing else is suitable.
So snares double thanks to Decision
Punters expected Chris So Wai-yin to take out the Class Four Siu Lek Yuen Handicap (1,400m), but it was supposed to be Copartner Era crossing the line first, not Hang’s Decision.
The former was the $3.10 favourite and had the services of star jockey Joao Moreira while the latter was a reserve, only getting the nod on Saturday after Nordic Warrior was withdrawn, jumping at $11 with Matthew Poon Ming-fai in the saddle.
Copartner Era was thrust three-wide on the turn when the pace slowed and only battled to the line fairly, while Hang’s Decision botched the start and had to come from last, overhauling More Than Enough by the smallest of margins.
Hang’s Decision is a favourite of So’s – he’s his longest tenured horse – with the nine-year-old now boasting nine wins and 11 placings from 72 starts for the trainer.
“We were lucky,” So said. “You don’t know when he can win – he just needs everything to go in his favour – the draw, the pace. He’s been a good horse and he’s healthy. He went up to [a rating of] 90 and he dropped down.”
It was the first leg of a double for So, who also tasted success with Super Red Dragon (Alexis Badel) in the Class Four Sha Tin Wai Handicap (1,200m).