Champion jockey Joao Moreira anointed Courier Wonder the best youngster he has ridden this season as the boom three-year-old took his unbeaten record to three at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The John Size-trained speedster was whacked a whopping 28 points by the handicapper in his first two starts but showed he still has their measure with a tough victory in the Class Three D’Aguilar Peak Handicap (1,200m) while carrying the proverbial grandstand.
Courier Wonder was tested early from a wide gate, but class prevailed with Moreira nursing the speed machine to victory while the likes of Trillion Win and Spend flashed late.
Even with Moreira consistently riding some of the best stock in Hong Kong, he struggled to keep his expectations under wraps for Courier Wonder, who he believes could be going all the way in time.
“For sure, this season, yes [it’s the best young horse I have been on],” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been on top of a nice horse like him. If he keeps on tracking and keeps on learning as he should, he’s going to go far – I can tell you that.”
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Visually, his victory may not have been as impressive as his previous demolition jobs, but Moreira suggested there was more merit attached to Sunday’s win as it was the first time he has had to deal with adversity.
“It was a bit more difficult because of the weight [133 pounds] on his back and he had the wide gate [eight], so he had to use himself to come across and he did win with something left in hand,” he said.
“I did not use the whip on him. I showed him the whip and they were closing up but I think that’s because of the weight.
“This time he won by a shorter margin and that was just because of the weight. It was still quite convincing to me and I still have a lot of faith in him that he’s going to go very high.
“He felt as good as he did last time, of course I could just feel the weight on his back was pulling him back a bit.”
Class Two now beckons for the boom prospect and both Size and Moreira have suggested he is set to compete again this season, such has been his ability to adapt to life in Hong Kong.
“He’s a young horse, only a three-year-old. He’s got plenty to learn and I think there’s plenty more to come from him,” Moreira said. “It’s going to be a bit tougher up in class, but I really believe he has it there.”
Badel impressed with Gluck Racer
Alexis Badel expects Manfred Man Ka-leung’s talented young horse Gluck Racer to continue to improve as he steps out over further.
The three-year-old broke his maiden in the Class Four Siu Ma Shan Handicap (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday – just his second time at the races – and the Frenchman was suitably impressed.
“He’s a nice horse. He surprised me on debut running third. He’s never been the best beginner so I’m glad Manfred gave him a lot more practice and some more time to mature,” Badel said.
“There is a lot of potential here but he’s never been easy. One hundred per cent he will be better over more ground.”
Badel, who sits fourth in the championship with 46 winners, also confirmed he has two Group One rides on Champions Day – Healthy Happy in the Champions Mile and Wellington in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
The latter was slightly disappointing when fifth in the Group Two Sprint Cup last start but the 31-year-old is optimistic he will be better with a touch more luck.
“I hope he can bounce back, it’s never easy from that gate . I managed to get him in a three-wide position with some cover but the horse over-raced a bit, so maybe he had some excuses,” said Badel, who finished the day with a double after also winning with Everyone’s Delight.
Lui’s Griffin has the Power
Francis Lui Kin-wai continued his good run of form, taking out the season’s first Griffin race on Sunday – the Windy Gap Plate (1,000m) with Turbo Power.
The 62-year-old has enjoyed a lot of success with Griffins – two and three-year-olds who haven’t raced before arriving in Hong Kong – in the past few seasons, with the likes of Farhh Above, Sunny Star and Chancheng Prince all winning in the grade.
Turbo Power has more in common with the latter, with both being bred in the USA.
“Just like Chancheng Prince, he’s from an American breeze up sale,” said Lui, who has collected winners at each of the past four meetings. “The same owner. He bought the right horse.”
Vincent Ho Chak-yiu settled the son of Mizzen Mast just behind the speed before finding clear running when it mattered to beat Smart Idea by a length with HK Dragon in third.
“I thought he could perform but of course it’s his first start, so you never know. To see him win is nice,” he said. “I think there is a little bit more improvement in him, he doesn’t look like a 1,000m horse according to his breeding. We’ll just stick to Griffin racing for the time being.”
Understated Yung upstages Express
All eyes were on Silver Express and how he would return from his disappointing run in last month’s Derby but it was Benno Yung Tin-pang and his in-form galloper Hinchinlove who stole the show.
The six-year-old is in career-best form and has won two of his last four starts, including Sunday’s Class Two Cheung Lin Shan Handicap (1,400m) which marked his first win in the grade.
Yung’s charged was well-backed into $19 and was given a perfect ride by Matthew Chadwick to pull off the victory, leaving a messy race in his wake after Silver Express got up to his old tricks and ran about in the straight, causing interference to a host of runners.
“He is quite a consistent horse, we haven’t changed much with him, he is just a big horse who has been racing and got fit,” Yung said of the winner.
“I think he can go on from there, it all depends on the situation for him. It was a strong race today so he performed well.”