Horse Racing
True Grit’s bravery keeps Size in the driving seat

By David Morgan
27/06/2019 00:10

Joao Moreira celebrates True Grit’s win in the last.
Joao Moreira celebrates True Grit’s win in the last.

True Grit showed his resilience to win the finale at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 26 June) for champion trainer John Size and his retained rider Joao Moreira.

The four-year-old made it four wins on the bounce with a battling short-head verdict over the Neil Callan-ridden Harmony Hero in the Class 3 Cheung Chau Handicap (1650m).

“He’s a good racehorse, he tries his best,” Moreira said of the 2.1 favourite.

The Brazilian’s mount enjoyed a smooth rail run into the straight but there was no plain-sailing from that point on. True Grit (125lb) had to dig, grinding determinedly to overhaul long-time leader My Ally (120lb) then eking out just enough to hold off the wide-running Harmony Hero (133lb).

“Circumstances helped,” Moreira said. “He had a good gate (3), they ran along a little bit, so for not being on-pace he was always going to be one of the strongest at the end and that was the case. We were also quite lucky to get the split on the inside to go through, but I don’t want to put down his bravery, he still had to make it and he did it without hesitation.”

Size will need more of that from his team in the season’s remaining five fixtures if he is to repel John Moore’s determined challenge for his championship crown. Moore drew a blank tonight, and, with that rival stacking up a strong assault for Monday’s (1 July) Sha Tin card, the six-win cushion that True Grit’s win created for Size could prove valuable.

True Grit (no. 4) just edges Harmony Hero at the line.
True Grit (no. 4) just edges Harmony Hero at the line.

Moreira was full of praise for the master trainer’s handing of the winner. True Grit kicked off his career with four starts in six weeks last autumn, without success. Given a break, he returned in April and has not tasted defeat since, raising his rating from 51 to 72 for this evening’s contest.

“What an amazing job John Size has done with him because two months ago he was winning a Class 4 and now he’s probably high enough to win a Class 2. It’s a great training effort,” Moreira said.

“I hope that’s not it, I hope there’s some more. And we would think so because he hasn’t let us down the last four starts. He’s building our confidence that he’ll be a nice horse.”

And the rider has some confidence that the Wanted gelding might be effective over a longer trip, too.

“The way he travels, I don’t think distance will be any problem to him. If there is a concern about him it’s that he’s a light-framed type of horse, he’s a bit skinny but as time goes by he should get stronger,” he said.

Quest flies to the win

Matthew Poon seals a double with a last-to-first run on Flying Quest.
Matthew Poon seals a double with a last-to-first run on Flying Quest.

Flying Quest (115lb) arrowed wide down the home straight to land the night’s trophy contest, the Class 3 Manawatu Racing Club Challenge Trophy Handicap (1650m).

The David Hall-trained galloper flopped out of gate nine and was soon four lengths detached at the tail with Matthew Poon scrubbing along. But, up ahead, race favourite Win Win (129lb) had pushed through a sharp first section of 27.58s to secure the lead and followed with a second sectional of 23.10s. That was all to the victor’s advantage when it mattered.

“It would have to be all about the tempo, of course,” Hall said after his 18/1 shot had charged from last at the top of the straight to seal a three quarter-length score with a closing 400m clocked at 22.71s.

“I thought he genuinely had a chance in the race, his last run was solid and he had a light weight,” Hall continued. “With the draw, he was always going to be back but I didn’t expect him to be that far back, then when you see how the time of the race was, obviously he couldn’t keep up early and that’s why he was able to win the race.

“He’s had a great season and now he’s topped it off with a nice cup race, so happy days.”

The win gave Poon a double. The rider also took the Class 4 Lantau Island Handicap (1200m) on 29/1 shot Applause for Trainer Jimmy Ting, who notched the 36th win of his freshman season.

Special delivers

Saul’s Special impresses under Zac Purton.
Saul’s Special impresses under Zac Purton.

Zac Purton has always said it would be a difficult task for him to match Moreira’s single season record of 170 wins, and he will need everything to fall his way in the five remaining fixtures if he is to get there.

The champion jockey ended the night 18 wins shy of the target after partnering the consistent Saul’s Special (125lb) to a career best effort in the Class 2 Grass Island Handicap (1000m). Purton is now three from four on Michael Chang’s charge, who was well on top in the closing stages to score by two lengths over the dead-heating Speedy King (124lb) and Handsome Bo Bo (112lb).

“He surprised me, he was well clear and drawing away,” Chang said of the 4.6 winner. “I think this horse has improved a lot, especially mentally. When I put the saddle on him tonight he was very concentrated and focused for the race. You can see he’s much improved – the jockey came back and said to me that he sat and waited and was full of confidence, and once he asked him to go he just came and flew.”

Grant van Niekerk continued his good form with his 30th win of the term, a swooping run aboard the Danny Shum-trained 20/1 chance Most Beautiful in the Class 3 Lamma Island Handicap (1200m).

Callan overcame a wide berth to win section two of the Class 4 Peng Chau Handicap (1650m) on Faithful Trinity for trainer Richard Gibson. The Irishman parked his mount prominently and drove the one-time G2 winner in Italy to a length and a quarter success.

High Rev broke his maiden at Sha Tin three days ago but failed by a head to follow-up tonight. Ben So had the Hall-trained galloper charging late but the in-form Vincent Ho had first run on the Caspar Fownes-trained The Judge and sealed his 53rd win of the season.

Matthew Chadwick took the opener, the Class 4 Po Toi Handicap (1000m), atop the Ricky Yiu-trained Gentle Breeze. That ended a run of 60 rides without success, stretching back to 11 May, and raised his season’s tally to 20.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Monday, 1 July.