Horse Racing
Michael Dee joins illustrious band with debut success

By Leo Schlink
24/05/2023 23:59

Michael Dee celebrates his first Hong Kong victory.
Michael Dee celebrates his first Hong Kong victory.

Narrowly denied a double on debut in Hong Kong, Michael Dee described his triumphant start at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (24 May) as a dream as he joined a select band of jockeys to ride a winner at their first attempt in the city.

In partnering David Hayes-trained Starry Night to victory in the Class 5 Cornflower Handicap (1000m), New Zealander Dee emulated the feats of, among others, Karis Teetan, Luke Currie, Shane Dye and Grant van Niekerk in riding a winner at their first Hong Kong attempt.

Having arrived in Hong Kong on Tuesday (23 May), Dee made the most of four opportunities – including a pick-up ride after Vincent Ho was stood down before the meeting because of illness – with a win and second (Sight Hero), third (M Unicorn) and fourth (Lean Hero) placings on a memorable initiation at one of the sport’s most unique tracks.

Starry Night salutes under Dee.

“It’s been extremely good. I think that’s certainly the dream start – to ride a winner on my first horse but unfortunately, I couldn’t get a second winner,” Dee said, lamenting Sight Hero’s effort to miss by a head after rattling home.

“Couldn’t ask for a better start. That’s what dreams are made of and I was hoping I would come here tonight and for it to be a successful one. Thank you to David Hayes and his team for having me on these horses tonight.

“I’ve obviously watched a lot of races here at Happy Valley. I just think you’ve got to be on your game quite a lot but still ride your race within reason and in a way, still let things unfold.”

Dee prevailed with a typically composed display aboard the previously winless Starry Night, much to the delight of his partner Mikaela Lawrence and Hayes, occupying a forward position just off the speed before driving the gelding to breakthrough success.

“Inside barrier draws help, he jumped really well and we were able to sit in a prominent position and he was strong effort, so it was a great effort by the horse,” Dee said.

Dee, 27, is the first jockey to post a winner at his first Hong Kong ride since Currie’s successful debut atop Miracle Victory – also for Hayes – at Sha Tin on 30 January, 2022.

London Luckystar continued a wonderful transformation by clinching the second section of the Class 4 Hyacinth Handicap (1650m) for Francis Lui and Lyle Hewitson. Winless in 30 starts across his first three seasons, London Luckystar has been a revelation this season since transferring to Lui, winning five of 10 starts and almost HK$3 million in prize money.

Now a seven-year-old, the Holy Roman Emperor gelding started the season on a rating of 24 and will climb to over 50 with his fifth success over the city circuit’s 1650m course.

Lyle Hewitson celebrates a brace.
Lyle Hewitson celebrates a brace.

Hewitson took his tally to 38 wins for the campaign when Jimmy Ting’s Magic Phoenix snared the Class 3 Snapdragon Handicap (1200m), denying charging Wonder Kit – who would have given Matthew Chadwick his 500th Hong Kong winner.

Chadwick’s dashing mid-race move on Fortune Triple resulted in victory for Me Tsui in the Class 5 Bellflower Handicap (2200m) as the first leg of a double for Tony Cruz Award winner Chadwick, whose vigour was decisive in Flaming Passion’s defiant victory in the first section of the Class 4 Jasmine Handicap (1200m) for Frankie Lor.

Caspar Fownes’ decision to apply blinkers to Chrysos for the British import’s first start at Happy Valley after four unsuccessful Sha Tin attempts paid off with an all-the-way triumph in the first section of the Class 4 Hyacinth Handicap (1650m) under Harry Bentley.

Bentley picked up the ride as a replacement for Vincent Ho.

Seasons Wit (No. 6) wins the French May Trophy Handicap.
Seasons Wit (No. 6) wins the French May Trophy Handicap.

Seasons Wit’s slender win in the Class 3 French May Trophy Handicap (1000m) maintained Zac Purton’s hopes of eclipsing Joao Moreira’s record of 170 for the most wins in a single Hong Kong season.

Five-time Hong Kong champion Purton has 138 wins for the 2022/23 term and has 15 meetings left as he attempts to create history. Trained by Jamie Richards, three-year-old Seasons Wit claimed a HK$1 million PP Bonus for his first victory.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (28 May) with the HK$12 million G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m).