Horse Racing
Derby talk at the Valley as Playa Del Puente impresses Moreira

By David Morgan
24/10/2019 00:15

Playa Del Puente wins with something in hand under Joao Moreira
Playa Del Puente wins with something in hand under Joao Moreira

Playa Del Puente prompted early BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) talk with a smart win in the Class 2 Green Luck Handicap (1650m) at Happy Valley tonight, Wednesday, 23 October.

The March feature was top of the wanted list when the Danny Shum-trained three-year-old was purchased out of Michael Halford’s yard in Ireland with a record of three wins from four starts.

“Hopefully he’s a Derby horse – fingers crossed,” Shum said. “He needs to win one or two more races to get into the Classic Series but he was bought with the Derby in mind.

“This win was especially good as he’s a northern hemisphere three-year-old. He’s improved for each race: on his first start here he finished well the last 400 metres, in a fast time, and last time Karis (Teetan) tried to put him in cover and he couldn’t, but he learned a very good lesson.”

Jockey Joao Moreira made the most of gate one and bottom-weight of 118lb to snag the lead and dictate the tempo, winding it up out of the back straight to shrug off the top-weighted race favourite and eventual third Not Usual Talent (133lb).

The 81-rated Elzaam gelding drew away to a three-length verdict from Happy Dragon (125lb).

“Joao asked for the ride and we were pretty confident he had a chance but Not Usual Talent also looked hard to beat, so the 15lb difference helped,” Shum added.

Playa Del Puente opens his Hong Kong account.

Moreira was taken with the bay, a Listed winner at a mile on his final start in Ireland back in March, who opened his Hong Kong account at the third attempt.

“Danny has to have the four-year-old series in his mind because of the way he’s done that tonight,” the Brazilian said.

“He did it very professionally; he has to have his opportunities. It was very straightforward, he didn’t fight me at all; he obviously got an easy run in front, I set a slow pace and picked it up from the 600 (metres) and nobody gave him a challenge so he was definitely the best horse in the race tonight.”

The Four-Year-Old Classic Series kicks off in late January with the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m), continues one month later with the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and concludes with the BMW Hong Kong Derby.

Le Terroir goes back-to-back for Joao Moreira
Le Terroir goes back-to-back for Joao Moreira

Moreira made the most of the inside gate again when Le Terroir (129lb) continued his climb up the ratings in the Class 3 Speed Vision Handicap (1200m).

The Peter Ho-trained four-year-old had won three of his last four starts to ascend from a mark of 47 to 72 for this evening’s test. Le Terroir made all to win by a length at odds of 1.7.

“It looks like he has another win in him. Since I got on him he hasn’t taken a step backward. He’s always improving and it’s an amazing job that Peter has done with him,” Moreira said.

“I had a conversation with him a long time ago and he told me this was a horse I should keep in mind and he was right. Two runs for the season, two wins, and like last time he looked impressive. How many points he still has in him is hard to predict but I do think there’s more in him.”

Ho left with a brace too as Dylan Mo’s 3lb claim came in handy aboard the top-rated Very Rich Man (130lb) in the Class 4 Windicator Handicap (1200m).

Positive Sanna strikes twice for Yiu

Alberto Sanna and Speedy King (far side) edge the win
Alberto Sanna and Speedy King (far side) edge the win

Alberto Sanna and Ricky Yiu capped a double together when Speedy King took the Class 2 Ivictory Handicap (1200m) at 50/1, following After Me’s success in the Class 5 Sir John Handicap (1000m).

The Italian rider now has five wins on the board this season, with the Douglas Whyte stable providing the other three.

“I wasn’t getting much support apart from Douglas so to get two wins from another trainer is very nice, I’m really happy. Ricky has been very good to me to give me these two rides today,” Sanna said.

“It’s great to have a double and hopefully I can have more support from other stables. I’m not a stable jockey – I’m on a Club contract so I want to have more support from everyone.”

Sanna endured a torrid time last season with two long spells on the sidelines due to injuries. But this term has brought a new approach.

“It’s been very positive riding for Douglas because it’s kept me very busy and I’ve been riding nice horses. In this game confidence is everything and I’m riding with confidence, you can see that today, this horse is 50/1!

“I just delete last year, it was terrible and I’ve changed many things. It’s all mental changes and living more healthy – I pray to be healthy all season so that people can see how good I am.

“My family helps me a lot and Douglas’ family has also helped to change my mindset to be more positive, to put away the past and now I’m working well to be positive.”

Speedy King holds Super Turbo in a thriller.

Yiu is on a hot streak: the handler welcomed his 11th and 12th wins of the campaign, making it four from his last eight runners.

Before tonight, Sanna’s only previous win for the stable was back in March 2018.

“Ricky said to me in the parade ring that Speedy King can be unbelievable: you have to try because he tries very hard and he likes it when you really try hard on him,” the rider said.

Another Italian, Umberto Rispoli, took the bull by the horns down the back straight in the Class 4 Flying Elite Handicap (1650m), rousting Enjoy Life (123lb) from seventh to first between the 700 and 600-metre points. But Chad Schofield was wise to the move, tracking smoothly aboard the Richard Gibson-trained Right Honourable (133lb) who battled past Rispoli’s mount to score by a neck.

Karis Teetan celebrates on Wonderful Tiger
Karis Teetan celebrates on Wonderful Tiger

After watching his smart young gallopers Classic Unicorn and Mr Croissant turned over as race favourites on Sunday, Chris So was pleased to bag a double. The trainer kicked off the night with victory in the opening Class 5 Glory Star Handicap (1650m) when Karis Teetan drove Wonderful Tiger to a first Hong Kong success at his 28th start.

So followed up in the Class 4 LONGINES Cup Handicap (1200m) when Zac Purton steered 2.1 favourite Happy Time to a first win at the 15th attempt.

Grant van Niekerk lifted the Me Tsui-trained Jolly Honour (117lb) to take the Class 3 Dordenma Handicap (1650m) by a neck in a tussle with the Regan Bayliss-ridden Surrealism (120lb).

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday, 27 October with the first race due to start at 12.15pm.