Lucky Eight’s raw ability was there for all to see at Sha Tin on Sunday and Ricky Yiu Poon-fai wasn’t tempering his opinion of the three-year-old, comparing him to Group One winner Amber Sky.
Lucky Eight cruised to victory on debut in the first section of the Class Four Spessartine Garnet Handicap (1,200m), travelling just off the pace under Karis Teetan before striding away to win by two and a quarter lengths as the $2.35 favourite.
“The win was expected. He got better with each trial and he’s got a relaxed mind, which is most important for a sprinter. He’s got a very good mindset,” Yiu said.
“He reminds me a little bit of [Amber Sky] – he’ll go close to what this horse achieved. He’s just smart, he’s got a good brain.”
The Yiu-trained Amber Sky won the 2014 Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin before going on to take out the Group One Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai, retiring with seven wins and more than HK$14 million in prize money to his name.
Those heights are an enormous leap from a middle-of-the-road Class Four but Yiu, who also trained superstar Sacred Kingdom, knows what a good sprinter looks like and if he’s anywhere near the money, connections are in for some ride.
One man who could be forgiven for wincing should he hear Yiu’s assessment of Lucky Eight is Ruan Maia, who was booked to ride Lucky Eight in his intended debut last month before he was scratched with lameness the day before the race.
With Teetan taking the reins on Sunday, Maia was forced to punch around $137 outsider Super Kingdom, who finished second last.
Lucky Eight’s victory extended Yiu’s hot run of form, with the veteran now successful at eight consecutive meetings and boasting 47 victories for the campaign.
Lor’s double delight
If Frankie Lor Fu-chuen is daring to dream about winning his first trainers’ premiership, he’s doing a brilliant job of hiding it after maintaining his matter-of-fact approach to the title fight despite increasing his lead to six with a double at Sha Tin on Sunday.
“There’s still eight meetings to go, I need to win more races. I cannot stop,” Lor said.
Lor got on the board thanks to Chevalier Prince’s victory in the Class Four Topaz Handicap (1,600m) and Sauvestre completed the trainer’s brace when winning the Class Three Sapphire Handicap (1,400m) as a $6.6 chance after being popular in betting late.
“He needs a fast pace so it was very suitable for him today,” Lor said of Sauvestre.
It was Lor’s third double in as many meetings and he now sits just nine winners short of John Size’s record of 94 successes in a season, a mark the 11-time champion trainer set in 2016-17.
While Lor’s haul moved him to 85 winners for the campaign – already 20 more than his previous personal best – his former boss and title-race rival Size could only manage a single victory despite boasting what looked a mighty hand.
Size saddled up the favourite in four of the 10 races on the card but only Tuchel could live up to his standing in the market, taking out the Class Four Lapis Lazuli Handicap (1,400m) as a $1.7 chance.
Tuchel made it two wins in a row with a commanding two-and-a-quarter-length victory under Zac Purton and the top weight of 133 pounds.
“Now that he’s had four races, he’s starting to put it together more efficiently,” Size said. “To win by a margin with a heavy weight, it’s hard to do. He’s got a future.”
Carpenter to Hong Kong, Ho to Japan
There might not have been a Happy Valley meeting this week because of Royal Ascot but there was still plenty happening in Hong Kong racing.
On top of Zac Purton’s nose surgery and Vagner Borges being sidelined by Covid-19, news broke that Greg Carpenter had resigned from his role as the executive general manager at Racing Victoria and would be joining the Jockey Club.
“Following a press release issued by Racing Victoria, the club would like to announce that Mr Greg Carpenter will join the HKJC as the head of racing product in September 2022. Further details of Mr Carpenter’s appointment will be announced in due course,” the Jockey Club said in a statement.
At a time when it’s so difficult to attract high-end talent, and with the departure of one of its executives expected to be announced soon, the Jockey Club will no doubt be thrilled to lure someone with Carpenter’s experience.
Meanwhile, jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu has confirmed he will spend four weeks riding in Japan during the Hong Kong off-season.
Ho, who has previously spent summers in the United Kingdom, will begin his first short-term Japan stint on July 30.