If Joao Moreira smiling like a Cheshire cat following Courier Wonder’s dominant victory at Sha Tin on Sunday didn’t express how highly regarded the emerging sprinter is, his words did.

“He really is a dream horse,” he said. “I have been telling everybody. He is the kind of horse where I can’t remember the last sprinter to give me this feeling.”

The three-year-old toyed with his rivals in what was his first foray into Class Two, a task notoriously tough on young horses making their way through the grades.

Having just his fourth career start, Courier Wonder (1:08.24) ran a considerably quicker time than Wellington did (1:08.64) in taking out the Chairman’s Sprint Prize on the same day, franking Moreira’s assessment.

Starting at $1.10 and $1.20 in his two previous starts, Courier Wonder’s $1.70 quote on Sunday was a luxury for punters and the championship-leading jockey said it was a straightforward affair.

“He is the kind of horse that you just have to give them their chance,” he said. “It was the first time he went behind a horse and it tells me he is very intelligent, he can come back.

“He wasn’t very sure of it at the start, then when he found himself behind the other horses, he settled for me. There is plenty more to come from this bloke. He has done everything I was hoping and expecting him to do.”

While the Brazilian doesn’t know what’s next for the son of Sacred Falls, he believes he is in the right stable to progress.

Jockey Joao Moreira and trainer John Size after Courier Wonder’s victory.

“I don’t know what’s next, but whatever [John] Size does, that is what the horse needs,” he said.

The master trainer confirmed he would not be rushing the talented galloper, saying he will “be very careful” in assessing his next move.

It marked an up-and-down day for Size, who had short-priced favourites Fantastic Way ($1.70) and Gallant Express ($1.30) go under before landing the last two races on the card with Savaquin and Courier Wonder.

“Fantastic Way won three races and then at the top of Class Three with the awkward run he had in the race, I think it was forgivable,” he said.

Vincent Ho makes Champions Day his own to put finishing touches on dream run

“Gallant Express came back to the races a month after his win and he looked like his inexperience beat him. He looked awkward and not in a position to win so he couldn’t cope with it. We will come back, I’m not too concerned about him.”

Moreira was left to lament what could have been with Japanese raider Danon Smash in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, saying the Hong Kong Sprint winner did not produce his best.

“Surely he didn’t bring his A game,” he said. “For whatever reason, he wasn’t able to quicken. At the 600m he was left flat-footed and the race was getting away from me. I was just hoping he could finish it off and get a placing. That is the game, sometimes they can’t perform back-to-back.”

Biggest crowd in over a year

Hong Kong racing saw its biggest crowd in almost 15 months as 6,219 attended Sha Tin and cross-betting at Happy Valley for Sunday’s Champions Day meeting.

Not since January 27 last year when 8,289 people enjoyed a day at the track has there been this many allowed in as the government restrictions from the fourth wave of Covid-19 begin to ease.

Golden Sixty gives fans a few anxious moments before extending winning streak to 14

Star jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu certainly noticed the difference as he and Golden Sixty have never really been able to enjoy much adulation with his last 10 wins all coming with crowds severely limited because of the pandemic.

“That was amazing. I’ve got to say thanks to all the fans who were able to come today because it makes so much of a difference,” Ho said. “The atmosphere, everything [is so much better]. Hopefully things keep improving and we can get more fans in.”

Fans watch on as Golden Sixty (left) beats More Than This to win the Champions Mile.

It was a feeling echoed by Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.

“It was great to see people come back to the racetrack,” he said. “It’s beginning to return to normal. We are delighted to see our fans back.”

The total betting turnover on the day reached HK$1.611 billion, eclipsing the mark set in 2018.

“We had record turnover, which is an amazing result,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said. “It shows the significant resilience and attractiveness of Hong Kong racing.”

Trainer Caspar Fownes.

Fownes breaks through

Caspar Fownes put his run of outs behind him in emphatic style at Sha Tin on Sunday afternoon, ringing up an early double with Hall Of Champ and Serious Liaison.

Richard Gibson’s Wellington delivers on potential to land Chairman’s Sprint Prize

Fownes entered the Champions Day meeting having sent out 63 runners without a winner dating back to Sky Darci’s Derby win on March 21, more than double the next worst in Peter Ho Leung (30).

His worries were over after the first race, with Hall Of Champ taking out the Class Four FWD Insurance JW Region Handicap (1,400m), before Serious Liaison delivered in the fourth event – the Class Three FWD Insurance Bocom Handicap (1,600m).

“It’s nice to put it aside and hopefully we can get back to where we should be,” said Fownes, who endured 23 placings between winners.

“Like I have said, if your stable is not running well then you have got problems. When they are running well it’s more frustration than anything else – you’re happy because you’re still performing well but of course you’re gutted because you’re like ‘I should have won that, I should have won that’. Anyway, that’s racing and hopefully now we can get back on a winning streak.”

Both of Fownes’ winners were having their third start for his stable after transferring from David Hall, with British import Hall Of Champ notching his second win from three Class Four starts after dropping in grade for Sunday’s race.

“It was a lot of weight for him to carry but the race was quite ugly, there were horses all over the place. We went back, he was wide with cover, and it was nice to see him get the win,” Fownes said.

“The horse hasn’t been with me long, his first two runs were good, and I think he can go back to Class Three and he can still fight to get a win in Class Three.”

Fownes still sits second in the premiership race with 56 wins, remaining three behind the 11-time champion Size.