The David Hayes-trained Metro Warrior has found it difficult to cross the finishing line first in his Hong Kong career – before Sunday he had one win from 20 starts – but he found a unique way to taste success without actually having to solve that problem.
The five-year-old was promoted to victory ahead of Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s Alcari after connections successfully lodged an objection following their battle in the Class Three Long Ke Handicap (1,000m).
Alcari (Joao Moreira) had a short-head advantage at the line ahead of Metro Warrior (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) but the inquiry light went up soon afterwards after they tussled in the concluding stages.
It's all happening at Sha Tin! 😮 Alcari crosses the line first but the result is overturned due to interference, handing Metro Warrior the win. @lindsayparkrace @Vincenthocy #HKracing pic.twitter.com/5BWW5na4Qi— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 9, 2022
The stewards determined that Alcari had an advantage of a long neck with 150m to go before shifting out and inconveniencing Metro Warrior at the 100m and then shifting out and bumping him again with 30m remaining, unbalancing the challenger.
“Having regard to the manner in which the two horses were finishing the race off and the short head margin between Alcari and Metro Warrior at the end of the race, the stewards were satisfied that if not for Metro Warrior becoming unbalanced when bumped by Alcari, Metro Warrior would have finished in front of Alcari,” the stewards report said.
Hayes was magnanimous in the aftermath.
“It’s never nice to win on protest but I’ll take it,” he said. “In the last 50m there were two bumps and a couple of pats on the nose – Moreira hit my horse over the head.
“Every time he’s run down the 1,000m there’s been a young superstar – a [potential] 100-plus horse – running, but this time there were no 100-plus horses running so it looked a good race for him today and it was nice that he could win.”
For his part, Yiu accepted the outcome from the stewards.
“I was a little bit frustrated with the decision but I think it was a fair call,” he said.
Size snares double at opposite ends of the spectrum
John Size might not have got the chocolates with Master Delight in the day’s feature, but he didn’t go home empty-handed after Running Glory and Heza Beauty gave him a double.
While the two wins followed a similar pattern – both ran on hard near the rail to take advantage of the better part of the track – they carried very different expectations.
Running Glory is a promising four-year-old who was one of the leading chances in the Class Four Tai Tan Handicap (1,400m) and justified his $3.5 price as Joao Moreira guided him to a dominant victory.
“The tempo looked like it suited him very much in the run and he was able to take advantage of that. He got the nice run and away he went,” the 11-time champion trainer said.
“He’s always shown a little bit of ability and we were hoping he’d win a race quickly. It’s only his third start so I think that’s good enough – he’s done a good job.”
In contrast, the enigmatic Heza Beauty was one of the outsiders in the Class Three Pak Tam Au Handicap (1,400m), jumping at $79.
The talented but unreliable five-year-old secured his first win since November 2020 under the urgings of Antoine Hamelin, knocking off short-priced favourite Parterre in the shadows of the post.
It was the Frenchman’s first win since December 1, snapping a run of outs that had reached 52.
“Hong Kong is a tough place, this is nothing new,” Hamelin said. “I just never give up and I keep going to do my job. I do the best with what I have in the hand and I’m very happy to win for Mr Size.
“It was a surprise a bit for everyone but I never give up.”
Hong Kong quinella at Caulfield
There was a distinct Hong Kong flavour in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, with 2019 Derby runners Ho Ho Khan and Dark Dream filling the quinella in a benchmark 100 handicap at Caulfield.
In his third start in Australia since connections decided he was ready for a change of scenery last year, Ho Ho Khan – who began his career in New Zealand – finished strongly from the back of the field over 2,000m to defeat Dark Dream by a length and three quarters and notch his first win since May 2019.
That victory came in the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2,400m) at Sha Tin and was one of four victories from 25 starts during the seven-year-old’s time under the care of David Hall in Hong Kong.
Big performances from the former Hong Kong gallopers!— Racing.com (@Racing) January 8, 2022
Ho Ho Khan wins in Australia for the first time and Dark Dream finishes second. 🇭🇰@HKJC_Racing @JChilds47 @Freedmanmitch pic.twitter.com/WRUEAurnwX
Ho Ho Khan’s ownership hasn’t changed, with Hall facilitating the move to Mitch Freedman’s Ballarat stables.
“I always had the confidence he could win a Group Three race or an Adelaide or Sydney Cup on really heavy ground in a handicap, I always thought that was the type of horse he was,” Hall said.
“It was a bit of a waste to retire him and I convinced the owners to send him down there and it was great the track stayed with a bit of juice in it and he was comfortable. The winter is looking good for him.”
Dark Dream was a length ahead of Ho Ho Khan when fourth in the 2019 Hong Kong Derby and saluted twice from 17 starts in the jurisdiction, first under the tutelage of Frankie Lor Fu-chuen and then David Hayes.
Now trained by Hayes’ sons Ben and JD and Lindsay Park, the 2018 Group One Queensland Derby winner has three seconds from seven starts in his second Australian stint but is yet to salute.