Hong Kong Derby-winning trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai saddles four runners at Happy Valley on Wednesday, including last-start victor Reach Goal, and he is the city’s hottest handler – no matter how you do the math.
The Derby Day triumphs of Voyage Bubble in the HK$24 million main event and Mighty Stride in the nightcap elevated Yiu to 41 wins and outright second place in this term’s title race, the 2019-20 champion trainer putting up some remarkable numbers, particularly since we said goodbye to 2022 and hello to 2023.
No trainer has celebrated more wins this month than Yiu, whose March tally of nine eclipses John Size’s total by two. No trainer has celebrated more wins this year than Yiu, whose 2023 score of 24 exceeds Size’s sum by one.
And while Yiu trails Size by five wins in this season’s championship, which runs from September to July, the 65-year-old’s gallopers are outperforming the market, whereas Size’s are not.
Mighty Stride is MIGHTY impressive! Ricky Yiu bags a double, as does @HugeBowman... ✌️ #HKracing pic.twitter.com/l7jp5MpT5B— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 19, 2023
Number crunching using the Jockey Club’s closing odds about every runner this term, the market expected Yiu to train five winners so far this month, 18 winners so far this year and 37 winners so far this season.
Yiu is not the only trainer beating the betting over short-, medium- and long-term periods – Jimmy Ting Koon-ho’s gallopers have won more frequently this month, this year and this season than their starting prices suggest they should have – but the man whose expert eye enabled him to buy Voyage Bubble as a yearling for A$380,000 (HK$2 million) is doing it while contesting some of Hong Kong’s toughest heats, including the Classic Series.
There are no eight-figure cheques up for grabs in any of Wednesday’s nine races at Happy Valley, but Reach Goal is a live chance for Yiu and Silvestre de Sousa in the Class Four Staunton Handicap (1,800m) as he seeks to build on his March 1 victory over 2,200m.
De Sousa – whose Derby Day experience was the polar opposite of Yiu’s, with the Brazilian rider receiving a three-meeting ban and HK$60,000 fine for his careless riding of Soaring Tower in the opener – drove Reach Goal to success three weeks ago.
Reach Goal outstays them all! 💪 @SilvDSousa takes the stayers race at the Valley for Ricky Yiu. #HappyWednesday | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/ba5hvz31hY— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 1, 2023
World Famous, Lucky Eight and Shining Gem are Yiu’s other midweek representatives at Happy Valley. Lucky Eight reunites with Karis Teetan, under whom he finished a neck second on his previous outing over the city circuit’s 1,200m journey two starts back.
Angus Chung Yik-lai, whose claim is now seven pounds after Top Top Tea delivered him his 20th win, has seven rides at Happy Valley on Wednesday, one of which is Berlin Tango in the Class Two Arbuthnot Handicap (1,650m) for his master, Tony Cruz.
Like Badel aboard Bubble, Yiu goes against the grain with blowout Derby victory
However, Chung has an impending two-meeting ban to serve – he misses the April 6 and April 9 programmes – after he pleaded guilty to a charge of careless riding aboard Beauty Glory at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Keith Yeung Ming-lun, who miraculously walked away from Sunday’s nasty incident at Sha Tin when Royal Agility dislodged him after breaking through the inside rail, has five assignments at Happy Valley on Wednesday, the pick of which looks to be Happy Jai Jai in the Class Four Chancery Handicap (1,650m).