Horse Racing
Happy Together delivers for Alexis Badel, Frankie Lor as Pierre Ng’s winning streak extends to 14 successive meetings

By Leo Schlink
20/12/2023 23:57

Happy Together makes a perfect Happy Valley debut.
Happy Together makes a perfect Happy Valley debut.

Happy Together showcased G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) credentials with a convincing win in the Class 2 Saturn Handicap (1650m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (20 December) for Frankie Lor and Alexis Badel, while Pierre Ng continued an extraordinary season with a double.

Badel was confident Happy Together would benefit from a more patient ride after the gelding’s third to The Golden Scenery at his previous start at Sha Tin on 26 November and the Frenchman was delighted to be proved correct.

“He’s a good horse. Last time, I rode him probably like a Hong Kong horse which is not totally suitable for him – that means, the pace was slow (at his previous start) so I anticipated and I was wrong. He’s a horse with a good turn of foot no matter the pace looks like,” Badel said.

“So, this time, I wasn’t panicking. I was more trying not to be too ambitious and give him more chance.”

Ridden conservatively in fourth place behind pacesetter Drombeg Banner (129lb) and favourite Chill Chibi (121lb), Happy Together (122lb) was driven into clear running on straightening and the Dragon Pulse gelding proved too solid for Galaxy Witness (120lb) and Chill Chibi, who rallied bravely after losing ground from the home turn.

With Lor absent tonight, Badel suggested the January Cup – Happy Valley’s sole Group contest on 10 January, 2024 – might be a suitable objective for Happy Together.

“Happy Valley suits him well, so why not the January Cup? It’s up to the trainer, that’s not my position but the way he won today was pretty impressive, so why not?” he said.

Happy Together wins the feature race this evening.

Competing at Happy Valley for the first time, Happy Together earned a PP Bonus of HK$1.5 million for his fourth Hong Kong win as well as HK$1.747 million in prize money.

Ng continued his stunning run of success with a double, extending the number of consecutive meetings the second-season trainer has saddled at least one winner to 14 meetings, netting 25 victories in the process.

The second-season trainer has 37 wins for the season – 15 more than Danny Shum – and counts 23 individual winners so far among his imposing tally after striking with Life Is Good and Healthy Healthy.

Life Is Good claimed the Class 4 Jupiter Handicap (1000m) for Angus Chung, while Healthy Healthy gave his handler and Badel a brace by landing the Class 3 Neptune Handicap (1200m).

“I didn’t expect him (Life Is Good) to win like that, but I expected him to have a good run,” Ng said. “He’s had five trials. The first three were disappointing because he stopped quickly and wasn’t fit at all. In the fifth trial, we tried to preserve him and finish off well, which is what he did tonight. Hopefully he stays sound and gets another win in the future.”

Jamie Richards followed last Sunday’s (17 December) victory with Colourful Baron with a double, scoring with Gallant Valour’s breakthrough success under James McDonald in the second section of the Class 4 Mars Handicap (1200m) and repeating with To Infinity and Zac Purton in the Class 4 Uranus Handicap (1650m).

“It’s been a very frustrating start to the season, and hopefully we can build a bit of momentum up now. You just need a barrier draw and a bit of luck, and hopefully it continues to flow our way,” Richards said on posting the stable’s eighth win of the term.

“He (Gallant Valour) is only a young horse and hopefully he can continue to improve. He had a heart irregularity, which is a pretty common occurrence in my opinion. Hopefully, if he can keep himself together, he can win some more races.”

Contesting his 16th Hong Kong start, Crystal Powerful broke through with a strong win in the Class 5 Venus Handicap (1200m) for Cody Mo and Andrea Atzeni.

Formerly known as Left The Building, the Exceed And Excel gelding won a Listed two-year-old contest in Perth for trainer Luke Fernie in 2022 before export to Hong Kong.

Intrepid Winner swept from the tail of the field under Keagan De Melo to land the Class 3 Mercury Handicap (2200m) to give Michael Chang’s stable its sixth victory of the campaign before Karis Teetan gave Easy Snip a brilliant ground-saving ride to easily win the first section of the Class 4 Mars Handicap (1200m) for Benno Yung.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Saturday afternoon (23 December).