Teetan hopes opening day form holds up with Convincible at Happy Valley

Jockey Karis Teetan hopes that pre-season barrier trial “form” will hold up at Happy Valley’s opening meeting for the 2017/18 season on Wednesday night, when Convincible (127lb) looks to make it three wins in a row at the city circuit in the Class 2 Yau Oi Handicap (1200m).

Victory would give Teetan’s mount a smart start in this season’s Hong Kong Airlines Million Challenge, a HK$1 million series that awards points to horses racing in Class 3 and above at Happy Valley. The competition climaxes with an exciting finale night on 21 February.

Francis Lui-trained Convincible caught the eye in a trial over the Sha Tin straight 1000m on 26 August, at the first set of grass trials for the term. That day, he ran home strongly to finish three-quarters of a length behind Blizzard, with Seasons Bloom a closing third a further length and a quarter adrift.

Convincible (inside) lands back-to-back wins over 1200m at Happy Valley last June, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

That form was franked when Seasons Bloom and Blizzard finished one-two in Sunday’s (3 September) opening day feature, the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup (1200m), and Teetan believes it bodes well for Convincible’s prospects on Wednesday night.

“The trial was very good, of course,” Teetan said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (5 September). “He trialled against some very nice horses and he felt great. He built up a lot of speed late though so I just had to let him build his momentum and he finished off nicely. Hopefully he can run to that level on Wednesday.”

Former Melbourne galloper Convincible did not race for 18 months before his Hong Kong debut last November, but he came to hand quickly by placing at his third start. However, the I Am Invincible gelding struggled to get that elusive breakthrough until May, when at the 11th time of asking he dashed clear for a Class 3 win under Teetan.

The pair then followed up in Class 2 two weeks later, meaning that Convincible has risen 15 ratings points in two starts. Nevertheless, the Mauritian rider feels that the six-year-old is capable of handling that increase.

“He has gone up in the ratings now but I think he’s deserved it off his last two wins,” he said. “I think it’s important that he did have a longer holiday than some of these horses, his last run was in early June so he was already on the shelf when the season actually finished. It means that he is coming in here fresh and well.

“He’s still an improving type, too,” he continued. “He has always shown the ability, it just took him a little while to get going. He’s still shown me a lot of improvement in the mornings and of course in his trial. He’s had the blinkers on at his last five starts too and that’s made a difference, it’s switched him on and he’s doing everything right now. I am excited for what he can produce.”

Convincible faces a strong Class 2 field which includes Richard Gibson’s speedster Jetwings (132lb); course and distance winner Almababy (128lb), backing up off a ninth over the Sha Tin 1400m on Sunday (3 September); Caspar Fownes-trained Victory Marvel (124lb), a five-time winner last term; and promising Lucky Dollar (118lb), prepared by Benno Yung, who makes his Happy Valley debut.

Rider Keith Yeung partnered Lucky Dollar at two of his three starts last preparation and was also aboard in a recent trial “win” on the Sha Tin all-weather track. He sticks with the All American five-year-old on Wednesday night.

“He’s an honest horse and he’s a professional so I think he will have no problems handling Happy Valley,” Yeung said. “To me, he’s still young and he’s a horse that has room to improve. He has saved his best for raceday in the past so I still have high expectations for him.

“Before his recent trial, I had been riding him in the mornings and I thought he was still a little fat,” he added. “But he performed really well in the trial and I think that’s sharpened him up. I think you will see the best of him this season.”

Like many of Hong Kong’s homegrown riders, Yeung spent the summer riding abroad. He fulfilled a long-held ambition of heading to the United States, riding work for trainer Dale Romans at Churchill Downs and scoring a win for the handler at the small circuit of Ellis Park, on the border of Kentucky and Indiana.

“It was a very good experience,” he said. “It was a place I’d never been before but I’d always wanted to go there. They race very differently to Hong Kong – the racing mode is that the pace is on, and it doesn’t bother them whether they find cover or save ground, the best horse wins the race. In Hong Kong, saving ground and finding cover is so important.

“I was lucky enough to ride a winner after six rides and I hope I can go overseas again next summer.”

The Class 2 Yau Oi Handicap (1200m) closes the eight-race Happy Valley card at 10:55pm, with the action set to begin at 7:15pm with the Class 5 Cheung Hong Handicap (1200m).