Horse Racing
Power charges to Anniversary glory

By Graham Cunningham
29/12/2018 19:03

I Am Power wins the Sha Tin Racecourse 40th Anniversary Cup.
I Am Power wins the Sha Tin Racecourse 40th Anniversary Cup.

One way or another, most of Peter Ho’s adult life has been bound up with Sha Tin racecourse.

The 58-year-old handler was a teenage recruit to the newly-opened Apprentice Jockeys’ School when Hong Kong’s flagship venue first opened and celebrated a fitting anniversary of his own when I Am Power (124lb) landed the Sha Tin Racecourse 40th Anniversary Cup (1000m) under Dylan Mo this afternoon (29 December).

The ex-Irish three-year-old has already sampled more of Sha Tin’s facilities than most after spells with Michael Freedman and Caspar Fownes and lined up for the Class 3 contest as a 17-1 chance after just one previous run in Hong Kong.

Fellow former Freedman galloper California Archer (129lb) headed the market and looked the one to beat under Silvestre de Sousa entering the final 200m, but Mo’s persistence was rewarded as I Am Power came charging down the centre to assert close home by half a length.

Dylan Mo drives I Am Power ahead close home in R5.

Ho, who graduated from the ranks of assistant trainer to gain his own licence just over 20 years ago, wandered down memory lane as he reflected on his eleventh win of the season and is confident there is more to come from lightly-raced I Am Power.

“I joined the Jockey Club to go to the riding school just as Sha Tin first opened so this is a good anniversary for me,” he said.

“When I first got I Am Power I liked him a lot but he missed the kick on his debut before finishing strongly. This run was delayed due to a cut and he’s not in top condition, to be honest, but by his quality he was able to win this race.”

Fownes has all the right moves as Dancing Fighter scores on debut

Caspar Fownes is no stranger to training for celebrity owners but could have been forgiven for feeling tense ahead of Dancing Fighter’s debut in the Lee On Handicap (1000m).

The unraced three-year-old was a first runner for star sire Zoustar in Hong Kong and, sporting the colours of Hong Kong celebrity Aaron Kwok, was a well-backed 2.6 favourite to confirm the promise of a trial win.

It wasn’t plain sailing as Eptiwins (121lb) challenged strongly, but Dancing Fighter (124lb) found just enough under Zac Purton to prompt elation from Kwok and his fan club.

Zac Purton and Aaron Kwok celebrate Dancing Fighter’s debut win.
Zac Purton and Aaron Kwok celebrate Dancing Fighter’s debut win.

A dashing gold hairstyle made Kwok easy to spot despite being swamped by photographers and Fownes was thrilled to score again for an owner he describes as “a gentleman and one of the boys.”

He added: “It’s great for a guy like Aaron to be involved. He has had success with me before but he loves his racing and it’s awesome to see everyone buzzing.”

Fownes, also on the mark when Chad Schofield scored on Majestic Endeavour in the Sun Chui Handicap (1400m), is keen to go gently with Dancing Fighter. He added: “We’ll let him develop further but he’ll be alright next season.”

Purton completed a swift double when Tianchi Monster ran out a decisive winner of the Fung Sho Handicap (2000m) to give Chris So the 200th success of his training career.

The winning handler praised Purton for suggesting a hood would help his winner and recalled the days when he left a long-term post as assistant to Fownes to break out on his own.

“It was a nervous time,” he admitted. “I only had 23 horses on my first day in 2013, but we ended with 39 wins that season and that was a great way to end this year.”

Millard hits 600 in Hong Kong as Pearl shines brightly

Tony Millard was another to raise his bat for a notable milestone – namely 600 Hong Kong winners – when Pearl Champion forged clear in the Chun Shek Handicap (1400m).

The South African handler had spent five weeks hovering on 599 since World Record scored on 25 November but the former Michael Freedman galloper was sent off a strong favourite and made no mistake under a strong drive from Silvestre de Sousa.

Pearl Champion gives Tony Millard a 600th Hong Kong success.
Pearl Champion gives Tony Millard a 600th Hong Kong success.

Time will tell what 2019 brings for de Sousa but 2018 could hardly have ended more strongly and the Brazilian matched his previous best Hong Kong total of 16 winners earlier when Dennis Yip’s M Reborn responded to blinkers by landing the Wo Che Handicap (1200m) with authority.

Only Purton has ridden more winners than de Sousa since he arrived back in Hong Kong in early November and, with two months of his current contract still to run, some interesting choices lie ahead in 2019.

The lure of a fourth UK title will be strong, especially with a third child due in the spring, but de Sousa is thriving in his new role and some good judges firmly believe he is a potential Hong Kong champion if he decides to commit for the longer term.

Moreira and Size strike late with progressive Mr So And So

Joao Moreira isn’t used to being the second most successful Brazilian in town and a frustrating day for the three-time champion continued when 2.1 favourite Raging Blitzkrieg (132lb) suffered a torrid trip in the Shiu Chuen O Handicap (1200m).

Douglas Whyte took full advantage as John Moore’s People’s Knight (128lb) gained his eighth Hong Kong success, but Moreira ended 2018 on a high as John Size’s Mr So And So got the better of a thrilling duel with Superich in the Class 2 Shek Mun Handicap (1400m).

Wong ends breakthrough year in style aboard Bonanza

Victor Wong will look back on 2018 as a breakthrough year and the 7lb claimer, who rode 13 winners in his first Hong Kong season, partnered his 18th winner this term aboard Romantic Bonanza in the Lek Yuen Handicap (1650m).

Danny Shum’s gelding was making his AW debut and, with Wong aboard for the first time, responded willingly to get off the mark at the seventh attempt.

Wong is engaged in an interesting battle of Hong Kong’s young guns with Matthew Poon which promises to continue in the new year.

Poon continues to maintain a healthy strike rate with his claim reduced to 3lb and ended the year still one ahead of his fellow 24-year-old when David Hall’s Speedy Dragon saluted at 37-1 in the Lung Hang Handicap (1200m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Tuesday 1 January 2019 with an eleven-race card highlighted by the Group 3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup.