Happy Valley bid adieu to 2017 with a Singapore Sling. Tony Millard’s galloper snatched Hong Kong’s final race of the year on Wednesday night under Tommy Berry and now looks destined for the upcoming Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
Singapore Sling and Tommy Berry win the 2017 finale at Happy Valley, photo HKJC
A G2 winner in South Africa pre-import, Singapore Sling (121lb) settled mid-rank under Berry in the Class 2 Chai Wan Kok Handicap (1650m); up ahead the John Moore-trained Beauty Prince (107lb) cut out the running under 7lb claimer Matthew Poon.
The leader kicked on at the top of the home run as Berry shifted wide and stoked his mount for a run to the post. Singapore Sling responded with an impressive 22.62s closing 400m split that was enough to snare Beauty Prince a stride from the line and seal a head verdict.
“His form overseas before he came here, he got back a little bit and was always storming home,” Berry said of the market’s 6.5 fourth pick.
“He’s got pretty good credentials for coming here and he’ll only improve. He was still a bit on his toes, so when he learns to relax and settle down a bit more in his races he’ll be fine.”
Singapore Sling was recording his first Hong Kong win at start two, following a presaging sixth of 12 behind Pingwu Spark over 1400m at Sha Tin at the end of November when Nash Rawiller was in the plate.
“I followed him last start when I was aboard Rivet,” Berry said. “They went very slow and he made that run quite wide around the bend – he let down well and just looked like he got a bit tired late. Nash gave me a lot of confidence before I went out on him tonight.
“He looks a good prospect for the four-year-old series, he’s a nice horse and we’ve got some nice horses at John’s (Moore) that are heading that way and he’ll be in the same mould as them.”
The exciting finale also featured another Classic Series prospect, Hong Kong debutant Insayshable – a fine third for trainer John Size. The Irish import kept on to finish a half-length behind the front pair.
The win was Berry’s seventh of the campaign. The Moore stable’s retained jockey was also on the mark atop the Caspar Fownes-trained Born Dragon (120lb) in race five, the Class 4 Ting Kau Handicap (1200m). The five-year-old held off top-weighted Energetic Class (133lb) by a neck to land the spoils at odds of 10/1.
Rawiller also headed into the New Year with his win tally boosted by two. The Peter Ho-trained Mr Right overcame gate 11 and a 133lb impost to take race four, the Class 4 Sham Tseng Handicap (1000m), and the Australian ace signed off in race six with his 22nd win of the campaign so far aboard another top-weight, the Manfred Man stable’s E-Super (131lb).
The latter set the tempo from the off but was headed at the top of the home straight when the Karis Teetan-ridden Circuit King (117lb) quickened to a narrow lead.
“He got a neck on me,” Rawiller said. “I just gave my fella a chance to balance up and Karis has come on me very quickly. I felt I had a good kick left, though, and to be honest the horse has probably fought back sooner than I’d have liked – it made it hard that last 75 metres to hold him off. But he’s a very gutsy little horse.”
E-Super fought back to land a fifth career win by a short-head at odds of 8.3.
“I’ve done a bit of work on him and know him better for having the last ride on him,” Rawiller said. “I know it’s a lot tougher in Class 2 but the way that little horse fought back with 131 pounds on his back, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s competitive up a grade with a light weight.”
Mr Right was the second of two wins on the night for trainer Peter Ho. The handler also took the third with Don’t Miss, a first-time winner at start seven thanks to a well-judged front-running ride by apprentice Dylan Mo. The 10/1 shot kicked three and a half lengths clear at the wire.
Fownes was another trainer in double form. The handler teamed with Joao Moreira to also take the opener, the Class 5 Yau Kom Tau Handicap (1800m), with 5.3 chance Sweet Bean.
Moreira bagged a brace, too, thanks to an easy win atop the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Imperial Gallantry in race seven, the Class 3 Ma Wan Handicap (1650m). The champion jockey anchored his mount at the tail before looping the field exiting the backstretch. That momentum kept rolling as the 3.4 shot powered down centre-track to register a four-length score.
Moreira’s chief premiership rival, Zac Purton, took the Class 5 Tsing Yi Handicap (1200m) aboard the Frankie Lor-trained The Champ. That meant Moreira enters 2018 with a four-win lead in the title race.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Monday, 1 January, 2018.