Trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai finished Sunday’s Sha Tin card with a flourish as Rock Ya Heart and Highland Fortune collected important results in the last two races.
After a quiet September with just two winners, the astute trainer has hit his straps with five victories across the past four meetings to propel himself into seventh place in the standings.
Lui, who has Hong Kong’s best horse Golden Sixty in his care, was delighted to see Highland Fortune come out on top in the Class Two Swan Handicap (1,400m), securing his first win since June 2020.
The five-year-old has often been around the mark but has found it difficult to put his nose out when it matters, however he showed some grit on this occasion, responding to the urgings of Karis Teetan to edge out Californiadeepshot in the shadows of the post.
“It’s been difficult because sometimes he doesn’t concentrate – especially when he’s fighting with the other horses,” Lui said.
Equally satisfying was the performance of Rock Ya Heart in the first section of the Class Three Spoonbill Handicap (1,200m).
The four-year-old, who won two of his three races in Australia when known as I Am Thirty, overhauled odds-on favourite California Spangle in the shadows of the post to secure his first Hong Kong win under the guidance of Vincent Ho Chak-yiu.
Rock Ya Heart has continued to develop as he acclimatises to life in his new home while Lui believes a gear change also made a difference.
“I think he can still improve, he’s still green. This time he had a better draw and I put the side winkers on to help him,” he said.
“If he relaxes and with a bit more maturity, he might be able to step up to 1,400m, but at the moment I’ll stick to 1,200m.”
It wasn’t all good news for the stable though, with Sea Of Life suffering his second bleed in the race won by Highland Fortune and he will now be retired.
Ferraris flies at Sha Tin
Luke Ferraris was forced to endure a nervous wait before he could properly enjoy his first Sha Tin winner, with the Jimmy Ting Koon-ho-trained Flying Sword surviving a protest from runner-up Boom Stitch in the Class Four Kestrel Handicap (1,400m).
Flying Sword made contact with the Chris So Wai-yin-trained Boom Stitch, ridden by Karis Teetan, in the straight but stewards deemed “Boom Stitch’s racing manners had been an integral factor to this matter” and overruled the protest, much to Ferraris’ delight.
“I’m very happy, obviously it’s taken me a while to crack it at Sha Tin but I’m very glad to get it done for Jimmy,” the jockey said.
“We had a dream passage throughout, he had the draw to help him and the race panned out exactly as I wanted to.”
Flying Sword travelled nicely one out, one back before assuming control in the straight and digging deep to hold off Boom Stitch by half a length, with Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Flying Victory a further half-length away in third.
Ferraris’ victory followed two at Happy Valley, ensuring he keeps things ticking along in his maiden Hong Kong season, while Ting continued his strong start with his 12th victory of the campaign.
Almost as impressive as his early-season form was Ting’s ability to extract a win out Flying Sword in his first start for the stable after transferring from David Hayes in the off-season.
It was the six-year-old’s second Hong Kong success at start 28 and his first win since June last year, with the New Zealand import now with his fourth trainer in the city after starting his career with Me Tsui Yu-sak before moving to Tony Cruz.
Copartner’s Classic Series ambitions
Copartner Ambition could be on a path to the four-year-old series after coming from last near the turn to run over the top of his rivals in the Class Three Sea Eagle Handicap (1,400m).
The son of Starspangledbanner now has two wins from six starts and, given the way he performed on Sunday, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem getting him to perform at least to a mile and potentially beyond.
Trainer Chris So confirmed connections are keen to boost his rating to have a crack at the lucrative series of races, which includes the Classic Mile, Classic Cup and Hong Kong Derby.
“It’s interesting because the owner wants to maybe head to the Classic Series,” So said. “This horse can continue to improve and maybe if he keeps on going, we can look at the Classic Series.
“He’s better now among other horses. In the past, he has been shying away. It was nice to see him win again today.”
It was a career-best effort from runner-up Sky Forever, with Manfred Man Ka-leung’s four-year-old also closing strongly to finish three-quarters of a length behind Copartner Ambition at $160.
Piccone set to resume
Things could be starting to turn for jockey Tony Piccone, who is poised to return to the saddle this week.
The Frenchman has endured a rough trot to start the season but he is set to compete at the Happy Valley meeting on Sunday after recovering from the fractured ankle he copped in a barrier mishap on September 26.
Stewards confirmed Piccone has been cleared to resume riding trackwork on Thursday “with a view to being declared for race riding engagements” for the meeting on October 23.
The 34-year-old is still looking for his first winner of the campaign with three placings from 16 rides so far.
Meanwhile, Ruan Maia will be having an enforced holiday next month after being hit with a two-meeting suspension and a HK$7,500 fine for his ride aboard Witty Scholar in the Class Four Peacock Handicap (1,600m).
The Brazilian, who has two winners from 27 rides, will miss the cards on November 10 and 13.