Horse Racing
Helene Charisma times it right

By David Morgan
26/09/2019 00:12

Helene Charisma wins the night’s Class 2.
Helene Charisma wins the night’s Class 2.

It wasn’t the Grand Prix de Paris but the Heung Yip Handicap (1800m) at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 25 September) represented the pinnacle, so far, of Helene Charisma’s Hong Kong career, and it was a timely peak at that.

“It’s Mr. and Mrs. Woo’s anniversary, more than 60 years,” said a jubilant John Moore, Sir Po-shing and Lady Woo being senior partners in the family-owned galloper.

Helene Charisma (123lb) was bought with lofty targets in mind, given his G1-winning exploits at Saint-Cloud under his former moniker, Mont Ormel. Those glory days seemed far distant when the Moore-trained racer descended to Class 3 and a rating of 74 after 27 runs in Hong Kong without a win.

That nadir came last January but it has been onwards and upwards since for the horse, who nowadays is trained out of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s lauded Conghua facility. His 28th and 29th starts brought wins – both at the Valley – and, in Class 2 tonight, his 34th run since import, the six-year-old bounded past the winning post three quarters of a length clear of runner-up Tianchi Monster (120lb), the closest of his six rivals.

“He’s a Conghua horse, he loves it there. And he loves it here, it’s just the track – horses for courses – he’s much more effective here than he is at Sha Tin. That little bit more give in the track here suits him well,” Moore said.

“We didn’t think there’d be pace today and it was a concern to us, but when Ruthven went on, that was good for us. He started to travel, moved up to midfield and then he got the run.”

Helene Charisma strides on past Tianchi Monster.

Jockey Grant van Niekerk found himself at the tail of the field through the early stages of the contest. Eye-catching progress on the home turn took Helene Charisma into a position to challenge race favourite Tianchi Monster, and when his South African rider asked for more, there was plenty in reserve.

“He’s showed that turn-of-foot before and obviously he preferred the extra bit of ground – I’m glad I got him at Happy Valley, so thanks to Mr. Moore. The horse was travelling quite comfortably all the way and he gave me a nice kick in the straight,” Van Niekerk said.

The rider went on to seal a double when the Danny Shum-trained Clement Legend landed the Class 3 Tai Shue Wan Handicap (1650m), the 63-rated five-year-old’s fourth win at the track – the first came last October off a rating of 24 – and first here at a trip shorter than 2200m.

Moore, meanwhile, is wishing Helene Charisma had more opportunities at the city venue.

“He’ll have to go for the 1800m at Sha Tin now because his options are very limited here,” he said. “We’ll look at getting him into the (G3) January Cup over 1800 metres back here later in the season.”

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Tuesday, 1 October.