It was a tale of two titles at Happy Valley, with one championship now closer to being decided and another still threatening to go to the wire.
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen may well have thought he had sewn up the trainers’ crown by the halfway stage of Wednesday night’s card with an early double taking him seven winners clear of John Size, but a late strike by the 11-time champion handler just about keeps him in the hunt.
Chasing his first championship, Lor wasted next to no time in pulling further clear of his former boss when Hyperion Tree landed the second race of the meeting, the Class Four Tamar Handicap (2,200m).
Hyperion Tree was a late addition to Lor’s title-chasing team after joining him only two months ago after previously being in the care of Benno Yung Tin-pang and a change to front-running tactics appears to have brought out the best in the five-year-old since switching yards.
Lor was pleased with the victory and although the end of the season is fast approaching, he may well give Hyperion Tree another run at the final meeting on July 16.
“Hyperion Tree won well,” Lor said. “He appreciated the light weight and maybe we can ride him this way again. I will probably run him again over 1,800m on the last day of the season at Sha Tin.”
Hyperion Tree may have given Lor some more breathing space in the trainers’ championship but he could have been forgiven for letting out a huge sigh of relief when he found himself in the winner’s enclosure just half an hour later.
Go for Tea had been struggling this season but put that right with an easy victory in the first section of the Class Five Tim Mei Handicap (1,650m).
Another to make all the running, Go For Tea’s win came in only his second start at the basement level and he’ll head straight back into Class Four company next season.
Go For Tea’s win was Lor’s 90th of the campaign and he is approaching a record-breaking tally, with only Tony Cruz with 91 winners in 2004-05 and Size, who sent out 94 winners in 2016-17, having had more successes in a season.
Size pulled one back to leave himself six behind when Ping Hai Galaxy ran out an impressive winner of the Class Three Drake Handicap (1,200m) under Alexis Badel, who had earlier been successful aboard Hyperion Tree.
So while one championship is all but over, the final three meetings of the season will feature a titanic clash between Joao Moreira and Zac Purton for the jockeys’ title.
Heading into the meeting, Purton was one winner clear of the Magic Man but he wasn’t in front for long as the Brazilian rider took out the opening race on the card when Tailor Made saluted in the second section of the Tim Mei Handicap.
Racing in midfield, Moreira pulled Tailor Made to the outside as the field turned for home and the pair got the better of a great battle with This Is Charisma up the middle of the Happy Valley straight to win by a hard-fought length.
Purton managed to regain his lead when striking on Go For Tea and brought up a double when Compassion Super was another to make all when easily winning the Class Four Harcourt Handicap (1,200m). Purton is now up to 131 winners for the season, two clear of Moreira.