Horse Racing
Shining Ace takes Million Challenge

By Declan Schuster
27/02/2020 00:54

Shining Ace is the 2020 DBS x Manulife Million Challenge winner.
Shining Ace is the 2020 DBS x Manulife Million Challenge winner.

The DBS x Manulife Million Challenge came to a close on Wednesday (26 February) at Happy Valley when Shining Ace safely held top spot to secure the HK$650,000 first prize.

The points-based challenge is for horses competing in races rated Class 3 and above at the city circuit, and this season’s contest ran from 11 September, 2019 and covered 88 eligible races. Points were awarded to the first four across the line with 15 points to each winner and six points to the runner-up, with third getting four points and the fourth place-getter receiving three points.

Going into the night, three horses were in contention to win the series outright, headed by the eventual winner, Shining Ace, who entered on 53.5 points and finished with a winning tally of 59.5 points after taking second in the night’s final race. Gentle Breeze held on for second place overall with 45 points after finishing unplaced while Flying Quest held third with 43 points.

Including tonight’s runner-up effort in the Class 3 King Kwong Handicap (1200m), Shining Ace has only finished outside of the top three twice from 11 attempts at Happy Valley, including two wins, with trainer John Size attributing the Testa Rossa gelding’s Million Challenge success to his admirable consistency.

“He did a good job – he’s been consistent this season and he’s run very well every time he’s raced, including quite a few placings and a few wins,” Size said.

Shining Ace finishes second to Invincible Missile in the final race of the series.

“He’s been good – he came back nice and in good shape, he holds himself well and he spent most of his time at Conghua but recently he’s been at Sha Tin and even with the travelling down from there he seems to handle it and he always runs a good race – he’s been amazing so he’s a deserved winner.

“It’s an extra bonus for the owners and it’s an incentive for them to bring their horse here so it’s a good competition.”

Shining Ace broke cleanly from gate 11 to settle near the rear of the field before closing strongly for Chad Schofield to finish second to Invincible Missile, who was ridden by Hong Kong’s champion jockey Zac Purton. The success sealed a treble for the champion jockey.

Earlier, Purton partnered Ares to scoot along the rail and grab the Class 4 Wing Tak Handicap (1200m). He also snared the Class 3 Sing Woo Handicap (1650m) aboard Dances With Dragon, a win that sealed a double for trainer Caspar Fownes after Matthew Chadwick drove Winning Delight home in the Class 3 Tsui Man Handicap (2200m).

The DBS x Manulife Million Challenge presentation ceremony will be held later this season at a date to be announced.

Au revoir Tony Piccone

Tony Piccone signs off with eight wins from 91 mounts.
Tony Piccone signs off with eight wins from 91 mounts.

Tony Piccone closed out his 2019/20 short-term contract with a thrilling win aboard Sunny Power (123lb) in the Class 4 Yik Yam Handicap (1650m).

The six-year-old gelding struggled for space in the straight but when Piccone found the gap, his mount accelerated to a narrow half-length score, with only that margin separating the first five horses across the line.

“He travelled well, I sat just behind the speed and he was just very strong in the finish,” Piccone said.

The win marked the Frenchman’s eighth success from 91 rides since his licence commenced on New Year’s Day, a short but sweet stint that has proved fruitful for the 32-year-old.

“I’m very happy – I’ve really enjoyed Hong Kong and hopefully I can come back again soon,” Piccone said.

Sunny Power fends off a wall of challengers.

Karis Teetan rolled off the back of a Sunday treble at Sha Tin with a barnstorming score aboard Waldorf in the Class 1 Blue Pool Handicap (1200m).

“He’s one of my favourite horses in Tony’s (Cruz) stable, he’s so quiet and last season I won three races on him as well as so many places – he always tries and it’s very nice to ride horses like that, so thanks to Tony and the owners,” Teetan said.

The Highly Recommended five-year-old is now a five-time winner over the 1200m at Happy Valley, his last two scores displaying a trademark fast-finish from the tail of the field.

“I knew they went a bit quick and I knew he was going to finish off, especially from where I got him as he was in his comfort zone and I knew he was going to let down and he let down very well,” Teetan said.

“He’s done his best racing here on the little track, so maybe it’s his favourite but of course if we run out of options and we have to take him to Sha Tin then we can, but at the moment we can keep him here,”

Waldorf flashes home for the win.

Harmony Victory has been knocking on the door all season having twice finished runner-up but tonight he rewarded connections with an electrifying rail-run under Alexis Badel in the Class 1 Shan Kwong Handicap (1650m).

“Forget his last run, he missed the start so he had to pass a barrier trial which he did nicely and I thought the sections would be slow tonight to help him,” trainer Danny Shum said, before adding, “he’s a nice horse – he’s already earned over HK$6 million in prize money.”

Apprentice Alfred Chan tallied his 20th Hong Kong win and reduced his claim from 10lb to 7lb thanks to a brilliant front-running score aboard Very Sweet Orange in the Class 4 Village Handicap (1000m).

Alfred Chan brings up the milestone aboard Very Sweet Orange.
Alfred Chan brings up the milestone aboard Very Sweet Orange.

“It’s a very special milestone for me, it’s very hard here in Hong Kong and it’s great to have ridden 20 winners, although it took me a little bit longer than I expected,” Chan said.

The 25-year-old brought up his 11th win this term and second in succession aboard the Me Tsui-trained gelding.

“I’m claiming seven pounds now so it will be harder, but it’s a challenge I am ready to take on.”

The night kicked off with Chad Schofield and Tony Millard registering their second win together this season as Gold Velvet staved off a wall of challengers to secure the Class 5 Yuk Sau Handicap (1800m).

Hong Kong racing continues this Sunday (1 March) at Sha Tin.