Western Express was one of two winners for Moreira, having earlier scored aboard Ricky Yiu-trained Indigenous Star in the Class 4 Panasonic New Stars For Kitchen Handicap (1600m). However, it was a largely frustrating day for the Brazilian as odds-on favourites Gouten Of Garo (eighth), Eighty Eighty (second) and Bravo Watchman (second) were all beaten.
Trainer Richard Gibson refused to entertain Hong Kong Classic Mile questions with emerging four-year-old Rattan, but was full of praise for the Savabeel gelding as he made it four wins from nine starts with a last-to-first victory under topweight in the Class 3 Panasonic Front Loading Washing Handicap (1600m).
“It takes a good horse to win three races in a row in Hong Kong, not many are able to do it and he had to carry plenty of weight there but he still got the job done,” he said of the Chad Schofield-ridden galloper. “He’ll be up in Class 2 now, but I wouldn’t be game to say he couldn’t do it. He’s a horse that has put his hand up every time a question has been asked, so let’s give him his chance – wherever that leads.”
Many debutants could not win at Saturday’s meeting, but one that did was Michael Freedman-trained Sparkling Dragon. The O’Reilly three-year-old was taken straight to the front by Clipperton from gate 14 and was not for catching, racing clear for a length and three-quarter success.
“The barrier wasn’t ideal, but he’d showed nice gate speed in both of his trials so we just thought, we may as well take a chance and go forward and see where he ends up,” Freedman said. “He got across quite easily and showed that he’s quite a progressive young horse. Sam made the comment though that he’d be even better when ridden in behind, because he was stargazing a bit in the straight today.”
Also scoring a double among the riding ranks was Derek Leung, who took the Class 5 Panasonic It Stick Type Vacuum Cleaner Handicap (1400m) on Gainfuljet for Benno Yung and the Class 3 Panasonic IH Warm Jar Handicap (1200m) aboard Tony Millard’s Golden Sun. Millard himself had a brace, with World Record justifying favouritism to win the last, the Class 3 Panasonic Mini Ice Handicap (1400m).