In what we can only hope is an omen for 2022, Healthy Happy defied an interrupted preparation to kick off the new year with an impressive victory in the Group Three Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m).
Last season’s Classic Cup champion endured a tough second-half of 2021 – he was neither healthy nor happy – after suffering a heart irregularity and significant blood in his trachea when he dropped out to finish a long last in the Group Three Premier Cup (1,400m) in June.
And then soon after recovering from that, the son of Zoustar was again put out of action after injuring himself in his box, further delaying the start to his campaign.
But trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen remained patient, choosing not to rush Healthy Happy in order to compete in December’s Group One Hong Kong Mile, and was rewarded for that approach at Sha Tin on Saturday.
“In the Mile we would’ve needed to face Golden Sixty, so I decided to give him one more trial and set him for this race,” said Lor, who also collected the day’s other feature as Master Eight captured the Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy.
“[In the Premier Cup] he had some heart problems and then a lot of blood [in his trachea], that took a lot of time to overcome.
“Then unfortunately at the end of August, in his box, he nearly pulled his foot out and he needed a month and a half to heal, so I need to say thank you to the vet and the farrier. From there I trialled him three times and he improved every time so to get the win today is a great result.”
The race was straightforward for jockey Alexis Badel, jumping straight outside early leader Buddies before going for home at the top of the straight, holding off the fast-finishing duo of Lucky Express and Excellent Proposal to salute at $6.60.
The Frenchman, who has partnered Healthy Happy in his past six runs – including the Classic Cup – was delighted to reunite with one of his favourite horses.
“It was a fantastic win from the horse, I am so happy to see him back at his best,” Badel said. “He’s been a lovely horse to me and I’m so happy that he was able to deliver today. It’s a nice win for Frankie and it was a tough win. He just keeps going.”
Badel revealed he’d gone back to watch May’s Group Three Lion Rock Trophy, where Healthy Happy finished a narrow second to Sky Darci. He felt he could’ve reversed those positions with a slight change of tactics, so he was determined to get the best out of his horse on this occasion.
“I got beat by Sky Darci because I was carrying a light weight and I was waiting a little bit that day for the sprint and maybe the horse was outpaced,” he said.
“Today, I had no hesitation when the horse showed me the desire and I had no hesitation in just letting him go and the result is fantastic.”
Lor is still weighing up where Healthy Happy heads next, with the Group One Stewards’ Cup (1,600m) – and a clash with Golden Sixty – on January 23 or the Class One Chinese New Year Cup (1,400m) on February 3 on the cards.
“The Stewards’ Cup and the Chinese New Year Cup – races at 1,600m and 1,400m – I need to talk to the owner. We have options,” the championship-leading trainer said.