Yiu’s Citron shows plenty of Spirit to land Hakka Cup

Former French galloper Citron Spirit landed the biggest success of his Hong Kong career with a victory in the Class 2 Hakka Cup Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Saturday and trainer Ricky Yiu now has his sights set on stakes company with the five-year-old.

Citron Spirit won three of five races in Europe as a juvenile, including the G3 Zukunfts Rennen (1400m) at Baden-Baden in Germany. The gelding arrived in January 2015 but was unraced until February 2016 – first for Caspar Fownes, then for Yiu – and did not score his first win until January this year.

“He’s a typical European import,” Yiu said. “He’s just taken time to acclimatise, as many of them can, but he’s a happy horse currently and he’s shown that at his last two.”

Citron Spirit lands the Hakka Cup for Chad Schofield and Ricky Yiu, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

That included a first Class 2 victory over 1400m when fresh first-up last start. Citron Spirit (120lb) added Saturday’s feature, charging through between runners to grab Almond Lee-trained Keen Venture (118lb) by a short head, with a further neck back to Baba Mama (116lb) in third.

“He can be a bit of a barrier rogue, but I’ve ridden him the last two times and he’s jumped really well,” said Schofield, who brought up a treble with Citron Spirit’s win. “He was able to take up a nice position from a good barrier. Entering the straight, he was travelling well – I had plenty of horse, he just needed a bit of room. There was a very, very narrow gap and, to the horse’s credit, he surged through it.

“I thought Keen Venture had first run and that he might have been out of reach, but my bloke knuckled down and he finished the race really well. It’s a great thrill.”

Yiu is now eyeing the Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1800m) for Citron Spirit, taking heart from the fact that two of the last three winners – Top Act (2015) and Packing Llaregyb (2014) – were similarly-rated when they won the handicap.

“I have no worries about the added trip for him, it would more be that the quality of the race could be quite strong,” he said. “It could be against some good horses, but in his current form, he deserves a chance. They are handicaps, after all.”

And Schofield believes that the five-year-old is more than capable of holding his own up in class.

“Why not? He’s racing in career best form, he showed his win last time was no fluke,” Schofield said. “He won really well today so I wouldn’t be brave enough to say he couldn’t go even further.”

Schofield earlier took the opener, the Class 5 29th World Hakka Conference Handicap (1600m), aboard Frankie Lor’s Furious Pegasus before adding the Class 4 Hong Kong Federation Of Overseas Chinese Associations Handicap (1400m) on C P Power for Tony Millard.