Horse Racing
Fa Fa, Cheerful Days dead-heat in DBS x Manulife Million Challenge as Purton, Teetan post four-timers

By Leo Schlink
24/02/2022 00:36

Cheerful Days clinches a share of first prize with last-gasp success.
Cheerful Days clinches a share of first prize with last-gasp success.

Sharing the limelight with Zac Purton and Karis Teetan four-timers, Cheerful Days has crowned a season of stunning progress to share HK$1 million DBS x Manulife Million Challenge glory with Fa Fa after a stunning triumph in the Class 2 Shan Kwong Handicap (1650m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday (23 February).

Needing to win under Alexis Badel to share the series spoils, Cheerful Days obliged for Francis Lui with his sixth win from his past seven starts – with four of those victories counting towards the DBS x Manulife series tally.

Under the scoring format, 15 points are awarded for a win, six for second, four for third and three for fourth in Class 3 races or above at Happy Valley since 8 September, 2021.

Fa Fa, who totalled 60 points after a perfect four-from-four record at the city circuit, bypassed tonight’s meeting to instead contest the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (26 February).

The owners of Fa Fa and Cheerful Days pocketed HK$450,000 each – split after combining the HK$650,000 first prize and the HK$250,000 first runners-up bounty – while Meaningful Star and Special M shared HK$100,000 for finishing joint third overall with 48 points.

It is the first time in the series history that there have been both joint winners and joint third place-getters.

Francis Lui takes training honours.
Francis Lui takes training honours.

Lui was elated with Cheerful Days’ latest heroics in a season which has seen the Smart Missile gelding progress from Class 4 and a rating of 59 to Class 1 success and a mark of 95 in the space of five months.

“He surprises me, this horse, because he just keeps on improving,” Lui said. “He loves Happy Valley but he was also able to win at Sha Tin. I don’t know where we go next, but it’s good to share the series with Frankie (Lor).”

Lor said: “Fa Fa is really good at Happy Valley but we want to chase the Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Classic Series, so we had to leave here to go to Sha Tin to try but to dead-heat is still good. It’s a good result.”

Special M was the only horse with a mathematical chance of catching Fa Fa but faded to finish eighth behind Tony Cruz’s impressive Whizz Kid Storm in the Class 3 King Kwong Handicap (1000m) under a rampant Teetan, who matched Purton’s excellence as the pair dominated with a combined eight of nine winners.

Zac Purton regains the championship lead.
Zac Purton regains the championship lead.

Purton’s stunning form run enabled the Australian to overtake Joao Moreira in the rollercoaster battle for this season’s jockeys’ championship, having watched an 11-win lead evaporate when he suffered multiple fractures when injured in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on 12 December.

Faced with an 18-win deficit when Moreira started a six-meeting suspension on 6 February Purton crushed the deficit with bags of five, four, one, three, two and four. Moreira resumes on Sunday, trailing 75-74.

“It’s been a nice night, so can’t complain. It comes down to the support and opportunities that you get and with Joao out, you get a few more – which is nice,” Purton said. “It will be a bit harder now that he comes back.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to be able to ride 18 winners in six meetings and I’ve ridden 19, so things have worked out really well and hopefully it’s the catalyst to push me onto the end of the season.”

Teetan was equally delighted with his haul after further cementing his hold on third place in the championship with 38 wins.

“It’s a great night. It’s nice to deliver for all the trainers and owners,” the Mauritian said.
“I’ve overcome the injuries now and I’m putting in a lot of work at home and when I can come to the races, I can give 100 percent of everything I have, so I’m very happy.”

Karis Teetan seals a four-timer.

Francis Lui took training honours with a treble, while Tony Cruz notched a double and was particularly pleased with Whizz Kid.

“It was a fantastic win, he’s only a three-year-old and he’s a very mature horse,” Cruz said of the Shalaa colt who was having his first start at Happy Valley. “His character and maturity for a young horse is fantastic. I don’t have to worry about bringing him for a trial. He’s just so good to deal with. I believe he can continue to rise in the classes.”

Purton fired his first salvo on the card with a cerebral tactical display on Champion Pal in the Class 4 Yuk Sau Handicap (2200m), surging from midfield to take the lead at the 950m mark before streaking home for Paul O’Sullivan.

The Australian quickly doubled his tally when Meaningful Star’s desperate lunge on the post caught Gift Of Lifeline to clinch the Class 3 Tsui Man Handicap (1650m) for Lui.

Purton drew level with Moreira when Lui’s impressive three-year-old Scotch Tycoon rushed late to land the Class 4 Village Handicap (1000m). Allowed to settle early by Purton, the son of Rich Enuff swept to an emphatic victory – his second from just four Hong Kong appearances.

The four-time champion upped the ante with success on Me Tsui’s Armour Eagle in the Class Sing Wood Handicap (1200m) before Teetan launched his own surge, starting with Peter Ho’s Packing Award who underlined his talent with tenacious victory in the Class 4 Yik Yam Handicap (1650m).

Armour Eagle scores under Purton.

A gifted son of Shamus Award, Packing Award boasts two wins from seven Hong Kong starts.

Emulating Purton’s feats, Teetan also notched a race-to-race double when Cruz-trainee Mercurial improved on recent modest form to claim the Class 4 Wang Tak Handicap (1200m). The gelding triumphed twice last season but had finished no closer than third in six attempts preceding tonight’s breakthrough.

The Mauritian then coolly piloted Cruz’s Whizz Kid to a post-to-post triumph before Alexis Badel finally ended the duopoly aboard Cheerful Days before Teetan secured a HK$1 million High Achievement Bonus for Danny Shum-trained Majestic Star’s owners with success in the Class 2 Blue Pool Handicap (1200m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (27 February) with the running of the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m).