Horse Racing
Exciting young guns in action at Sha Tin season opener

By David Morgan
30/08/2019 16:01

Winning Method wins for Joao Moreira.
Winning Method wins for Joao Moreira.

Hong Kong’s season opener on Sunday (1 September) marks the dawn of a new campaign and with it the prospect of bright young stars rising to challenge the circuit’s established stars.

Champion’s Way and Aethero set a high standard for last season’s young guns and time will tell just how much improvement they have made from that term to this. Meanwhile, Sunday’s 10-race card has plenty in the way of emerging talents.

Winning Method was no match for Aethero on debut in April but sauntered to two wins thereafter down the 1000m straight. Joao Moreira was aboard for each of those wins and is back on board for the three-year-old’s first assignment outside of Griffin company, the Class 3 Lantau Peak Handicap (1000m).

“I’m very happy with him, he’s been very straightforward in his two races that I have ridden him. I think we are far away from his peak,” Moreira said after track work at Sha Tin this morning, Friday, 30 August.

Trainer Danny Shum said after the bay’s last run that surgery might be needed to help his charge reach his potential in Hong Kong. He was true to his word.

“He’s been gelded in the off-season and I think that’s going to be a plus for him,” Moreira noted. “He seems a bit more mature and I’m convinced that he’s more than good enough to be winning a Class 3. I think he’s going to go quite high in the ratings but it’s very hard to predict where he’s going to end up at – it feels like there are plenty of more rating points in him.”

Golden Sixty holds Mr Croissant back in June.

Two more rising stars are set to lock horns in the Class 3 Sunset Peak Handicap. The Francis Lui-trained Golden Sixty (130lb) won three races from four last term and defeated the Chris So-trained Mr Croissant (126lb) to claim his most recent success. The pair is set to clash again in the Class 3 Sunset Peak Handicap (1200m).

Mr Crossiant was an eye-catcher a week ago at Sha Tin, leading home a 1050m dirt barrier trial under Zac Purton.

“He jumped out and showed a fair bit of enthusiasm,” the champion jockey said. “He had a limited number of runs (five) last season, he was able to have a break and he’s come back and he feels like he’s fresh and looking forward to going to the races, so hopefully he performs.”

The two-time winner’s handler is wary of the Golden Sixty threat: “He trialled nicely but we have to go against Golden Sixty and last time, he beat us. I think he is our most dangerous opponent but it seems like my horse has improved for the summer break: he’s strengthened in the body and I would expect him to improve turning from three to four.

“I take confidence from the fact that Zac likes him, he asked me to ride him,” So added.

Dancing Fighter runs in the colours of celebrity Aaron Kwok.
Dancing Fighter runs in the colours of celebrity Aaron Kwok.

Purton will also be aboard Dancing Fighter (132lb) in the Class 4 Yi Tung Shan Handicap (1000m). The Caspar Fownes-trained four-year-old won on debut before placing second when last seen in July.

“I thought his recent trial was good, it was probably a better trial than what he produced going into his most recent run. I think since having that run at the back end of last season Caspar’s been able to continue to work him along and I think he’s in a little bit better form than last start.”

The field of 14 features plenty of lightly-raced candidates, among them the Ricky Yiu-trained Allied Agility (131lb) – another with a one from two record – and Ka Ying Master (130lb) who in June won his sole start to date.

Two interesting Hong Kong debutants on the card are the imports Butterfield (122lb) and Playa Del Puente (118lb) in the Class 2 Tai Mo Shan handicap (1400m). The former is a Brazilian G1 winner, while the latter wrapped up a hat-trick of wins in Ireland with a Listed success in March.

Shum’s unbeaten four-year-old Regency Legend will test his mettle against high-class rivals in the day’s feature, the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap (1200m).