Millard’s hat-trick as Nassa snatches the Ladies’ Purse
Nassa sprinted hard and late to crack the track record and hand trainer Tony Millard a hat-trick of wins in the Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.
It was Millard’s fourth Ladies’ Purse win all told, and the first three-in-a-row by a trainer since Tony Cruz achieved the feat a little more than a decade ago (2004-2006). The South African handler took the Purse previously with Iron Fist (2009), Top Act (2015) and Horse Of Fortune (2016).
“It’s very special to do it with Nassa of all horses,” Millard said. “I bought him as a yearling in South Africa and he can be anything. We’ve always known that he is very good and today he showed it – I really think he’s something special.”
Nassa is now set for a start in Hong Kong’s richest race, the HK$25 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on 10 December. The South African import also holds an entry in the same day’s LONGINES Hong Kong Mile and Millard will talk through plans with the Siu family – the five-year-old carries the colours of Connie Siu.
Nassa, ridden by Chad Schofield, scores in the Sa Sa Ladies' Purse (Handicap), a Group 3 race over 1800m, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
“We’re going to go towards the international races now and I think he’ll be in the Hong Kong Cup,” Millard said. “He’s more a 2000-metre horse. I’ll have to speak to the owner and we’ll discuss what exactly we’re going to do but at last we’ve seen what we always thought we had, it’s just been a long wait getting here. He’s got a bright future.
“I don’t think we’ll race before the Cup, I’ll talk to the owner about it, but I think he’s done enough.”
Nassa’s (115lb) final stretch surge – home in 22.88s – was enough to nick the spoils by a head and produced a new benchmark time for the distance at 1m 45.41s. Time Warp (123lb), conceding 8lb to the winner, held on for second with his Cruz-trained stablemate Romantic Touch (122lb) third under Douglas Whyte. Millard’s Horse Of Fortune (131lb) fought on to claim fourth.
“I got a good buzz out of that! At the top of the straight I thought I was 100/1,” said winning rider Chad Schofield.
The Dynasty entire, a 7.9 chance, settled handily in mid-rank as Joao Moreira dictated the pace on the even-money favourite Time Warp. The strapping leader kicked on at the top of the stretch and with 250m to race it looked to be a question of how much distance Moreira’s mount would put between himself and the field.
But within a handful of strides the outlook changed. Nassa, G1-placed in South Africa and carrying a feather weight, began to advance as Time Warp’s effort in setting strong fractions started to show.
“When I angled into the clear at the top of the straight, I had a lot of work to do and I thought Joao was out of reach because he’d pinched such a margin,” Schofield said. “But the more I got stuck into my bloke he just kept building and building and building. At the 200 (metres), although I still had many lengths to make up, I was confident that I was going to get there because my horse just kept mustering underneath me.
“He showed a fantastic turn-of-foot. I know he had bottom-weight but it was some turn of acceleration.”
The Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse was Nassa’s fifth start in Hong Kong, and, having had only six outings pre-import, Schofield is confident there is more improvement ahead.
“He’s had four runs but we hadn't seen his true potential here before today,” the rider said. “Obviously, there’s been a bit of hype about him but he hasn't been able to show it due to bad luck and so forth. We saw what he’s capable of today and it’s exciting for the future.”
Millard claimed a race-to-race double when the Derek Leung-ridden Gorgeous King won the next.
Champion trainer John Size saddled a treble on the day with short-priced favourites Hot King Prawn and Conte winning early in the 10-race card, followed by Time To Celebrate in race nine.
Moreira partnered the latter pair to take his season’s tally to 28. The champion jockey’s closest rival, Zac Purton, maintained pressure with a treble to sit one off the lead – the former champ was atop the Chris So-trained Amazing Star for victory in the opener, Hot King Prawn in the third contest, and Win Beauty Win in race six.
Jockey Keith Yeung also notched a double thanks to the Frankie Lor-trained Winner St Paul’s in race two and Marvel Tribe for trainer Francis Lui in the last. Marvel Tribe, a 65/1 longshot, (123lb) foiled the rising stars Pingwu Spark (125lb) and Fifty Fifty (129lb), beaten a lunging short-head and a neck.
The Michael Chang-trained Je Pense rattled home late to win race five under Karis Teetan.
Hong Kong racing resumes at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 8 November.