Horse Racing
Perfect proves more than a Match for Griffin Trophy rivals

By Graham Cunningham
23/12/2018 18:28

Perfect Match lands the Griffin Trophy under Karis Teetan.
Perfect Match lands the Griffin Trophy under Karis Teetan.

It wasn’t all plain sailing in the pre-Christmas drizzle, but Perfect Match (125lb) overcame a little adversity to add his name to an illustrious Griffin Trophy (1400m) roll of honour at Sha Tin today (Sunday 23 December).

Danny Shum’s gelding lined up with two emphatic Sha Tin successes to his name and was sent off as 1.3 favourite to emulate subsequent BMW Hong Kong Derby hero Luger and Pakistan Star in landing this HK$2 million contest restricted to three-year-old PPG and ISG imports.

Those short odds didn’t look especially generous as he was hemmed in on the inside and pushed along briefly swinging off the final bend, but Perfect Match had shown an ability to kick for home strongly in his previous wins and did so again once Karis Teetan eased him off the fence just over 300m out.

The Not A Single Doubt gelding was firmly on top as he passed the post with his ears pricked a length and a half clear of the front-running Quadruple Double (120lb) and Teetan, stepping in for the suspended Zac Purton, was more than satisfied with the way he settled matters.

Perfect Match wins the Griffin Trophy with authority

“If I would have had a choice I would have led but the leader had me in tight early,” he said. “As soon as he gets behind a horse he just sleeps – I felt that when I worked him – but he’s a very smart horse with a nice turn of foot.”

Teetan is well aware that Perfect Match went into this contest rated just 69 and that further progress is essential if he is to ascend through the grades.

However, he senses there is potential for the winner to “climb the ladder,” especially in the longer term. “He’s still only three and when they get one more year into them they just show much more improvement. He’s smart – no problem.”

Shum feels Perfect Match will derive benefit from having to race in tight in a well-run race and is already eyeing his next option.

“He showed that he can lead or box seat today,” he said. “I think he will only go up 2lb or 3lb so I’ll give him a break and run him in a Class 3 over 1400m next month. Karis says that he’s a very good horse!”

Derby dream burns bright after Dark Dream destroys Class 2 rivals

Dark Dream is hugely impressive in the Long Ke Handicap.
Dark Dream is hugely impressive in the Long Ke Handicap.

Experience tells us that it seldom pays to get carried away by one performance – especially when that performance comes on a track which has soaked up several hours of drizzle – but Dark Dream (122lb) looked every inch a leading Classic hope by taking some very smart rivals apart in the Class 2 Long Ke Handicap.

Frankie Lor’s Queensland Derby winner had an impressive record when he arrived in Hong Kong in September but, despite a promising Hong Kong debut under Zac Purton two weeks earlier, he was easy in the market at 4.2 as sustained support came for Danny Shum’s Harmony Victory.

That gelding was a dual G1 winner in his native Brazil and he looked far from the only danger beforehand in a field which also included two more recent good winners in Super Chic and Insayshable.

However, in a race where a steady early pace increased appreciably before halfway Dark Dream looked a class apart, powering through on the inside to lead with 200m to run and forging further and further clear to beat Giant Turtle (107lb) by four and a half lengths.

Dark Dream is dominant in R7

Insayshable (132lb) ran respectably in third but Harmony Victory (122lb) failed to live up to market expectations in finishing a one-paced fifth.

De Sousa, who admitted that he “went too fast” when partnering Dark Dream in Thursday trackwork, was surprised but delighted with how swiftly Dark Dream put the race to bed.

The clock backed up the visual impression – with a final 400m split of 23.18s that was striking in relation to other finishing efforts on the round course – and de Sousa added that “you don’t feel it when he quickens but he hit the front and just kept going.”

Lor has a potentially powerful Derby pack to shuffle once the Four-Year-Old Classic Series gets under way with the Hong Kong Classic Mile on 27 January and, ever the realist, he voiced concerns about whether the rain had played a part in the margin of victory.

“Maybe that helped him,” he said. “At the turn he was last or second last, so I was nervous, but he came so strongly up the inside. Coming back to 1600m for the Classic Mile may be a bit short but I have to try and, of course, I hope he’s a Derby horse.”

There are still dozens of Derby cards to be played before the big race on 17 March – and Purton may well regain the ride on Dark Dream once he returns from suspension – but this was an explosive opening bid by any measure.

De Sousa’s current Hong Kong contract expires on 28 February but the Brazilian didn’t miss a beat when asked if he would make a return trip for the Derby.

“No, I wouldn’t mind that.” He added. “Definitely not!”

City gets Whyte out of jail with dramatic sprint success

John Moore departed for a break in Thailand halfway through the card but left his horses primed to perfection as Victory Machine and Styling City landed him a thrilling double in the Luk Wu Handicap and the Chek Keng Handicap.

Victory Machine made it four wins from his last five starts when nosing out well-touted newcomer Waikuku under Victor Wong, while Styling City did remarkably well to make it five wins from just seven attempts half an hour later.

Styling City’s rider Douglas Whyte returned to scale saying that he thought he had “slaughtered” Styling City, as the chestnut was badly checked against the stand rail when Baltic Whisper came across him.

Further traffic problems ensued as Whyte eased outside in desperate search of a run, but Styling City produced a dramatic late surge once clear to beat stablemate Storm Signal by a short head.

Joao Moreira and John Size had to settle for second with Waikuku but their burgeoning new partnership had already yielded a double with Picken and Tornado Twist.

Picken showed improved form at the fifth attempt to land race five in gritty style, while Tornado Twist looked a young sprinter with a bright future by quickening on demand to land race six with more in hand than the relatively narrow margin suggests.

Bring It On brings it off – thanks to de Sousa’s drive

Dennis Yip’s good recent form continued in race two thanks in no small part to a decision to book de Sousa for the capable but frustrating Bring It On.

The five-year-old had won just one of his 31 prior to this but de Sousa’s didn’t take no for an answer and Bring It On found just enough to beat Ishvara by a nose under a powerful left hand drive.

Keith Yeung and Benno Yung were frustrated to see Ishvara go down narrowly but the disappointment didn’t last long as Happy Force made every yard in race four to give trainer and rider their eighth wins of the campaign.

Umberto Rispoli is another whose season has been highlighted by near misses – with more than 30 seconds and thirds – but Manful Star sent the Italian into the holidays with a ninth success in race one.

Ricky Yiu’s gelding was in Class 5 for just the second time and took full advantage, charging from last to first down the centre to score decisively.

Hong Kong’s Christmas racing schedule continues on Wednesday 26 December with an eight-race card at Happy Valley.