Horse Racing
Tsui’s hot Valley run keeps going from Conghua stable

By Steve Moran
07/11/2018 23:51

Trainer Me Tsui’s hot Happy Valley form continued tonight with a city track double courtesy of two horses prepared at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s  state-of-the art Conghua training facility. 

Tsui, who landed a treble at the previous Valley meeting on 28 October, took the night’s opener with Dragon Dance who was resuming from a spell and whose preparation had been largely undertaken at Conghua – arriving there on 6 September and returning nine days ago. 

His second winner Curling Luxury benefitted from a change of routine, leaving Sha Tin after his previous run and spending just on three weeks across the boundary. 

“Conghua works really well for some horses,” Tsui said, “These two came here really well and fresh and I plan to make more use of the new facility. I’ve been there in the last few days making the arrangements to have more horses up there. At the moment I have 13 horses at Conghua but hope to have 20 to 25 by next month.”

Me Tsui: delighted with his Happy Valley double.
Me Tsui: delighted with his Happy Valley double.

Tsui’s double takes his tally of winners to 13 for the season; he sits fourth on the premiership table just one shy of Tony Cruz in third and looks well placed to better his very solid last season output of 40 winners.

“Yes, I’m very happy with how things are going. I wouldn’t really have expected to have this number (of winners) at this stage of the season but I have had great support from my owners and my team does a great job,” he said. 

Tsui employed claiming apprentices Jack Wong and Dylan Mo on his winners and said that the light weights were also key factors. “Especially with Curling Luxury who had a super light weight and you could see that really helped him in the last 50 metres,” he said. 

Tsui’s double was part of a six-timer tonight to local trainers who’ve claimed 20 of the 26 races at the past three meetings in Hong Kong.

Tony Cruz won the second race of the evening with Pakistan Baby and that success for Karis Teetan took him within one win of Zac Purton on the jockey’s table.

Little Bird breaks big Van Niekierk drought

First season jockey Grant Van Niekerk’s failure to ride a winner around what he described as a ‘tricky’ track had become quite the talking point for just about everybody in racing and a source of frustration for the man himself. 

So it was no surprise he allowed himself a little celebratory gesture as Little Bird won  The American Club Challenge Cup (1200m) to break his Happy Valley duck which had stood for 44 rides. 

Grant Van Niekerk ends his Happy Valley drought on Little Bird.
Grant Van Niekerk ends his Happy Valley drought on Little Bird.

“It feels like my first winner,” Van Niekerk said after the win on the Ricky Yiu-trained gelding whose effortless winning margin of three and a half lengths allowed the jockey the luxury of an excited but measured celebration. It was a win well received with plenty of over the rail handshakes for the jockey who is a ten time Group 1 winner in his home country South Africa. 

The jockey wasn’t letting the Valley drought get him down. His seven Sha Tin winners in the first two months represented a satisfactory tally for any newcomer and he felt he could have been an earlier winner at Happy Valley where he’d ridden eight placegetters. 

“I really feel like I could have had a couple of winners here, before this, with a touch of luck. I’m glad that I’ve now been able to break through. It was a little frustrating mainly because when you’re battling, the rides become harder to get. 

“It is a very tricky track and everything takes times. It took me some time to get the rhythm of this track and you need to be on the right horse. The track is tight and quick and you need a horse with some pace. A horse who’s quick and on the bridle like Little Bird.

“It might have taken some time to break through at Happy Valley but overall I’m happy with how things have gone. You can’t come here and expect to do exceptionally well from the start. I’m happy to have ridden the winners I have and really grateful for the support I’ve had,” he said. 

Little Bird leads all the way to easily win the American Club Challenge Cup.

Van Niekerk will ride at the Panasonic Cup meeting at Sha Tin on Saturday before heading to Singapore where he’ll ride Lim’s Magic in the Singapore Gold Cup. 

“I’ve picked up the ride, from Stephen Gray, on Lim’s Magic who’s on 110 pounds so I’ve been dieting since Monday. I hope to at least get down to 111 (pounds),” said the jockey whose usual weight is around 115 pounds. 

Gibson Nears Milestone

Trainer Richard Gibson is just one shy of 200 winners in Hong Kong after his promising galloper Wishful Thinker posted an impressive last-to-first win in the High Island Handicap (1200m), the final race on the card.

The gelding was masterfully handled by Alexis Badel to secure his first winner of his current Hong Kong contract which began last Sunday.