Paul O’Sullivan landed only his eighth win of a difficult campaign when Merrygowin got the run of the race to capture Wednesday night’s second trophy contest, the Class 4 Rotary Centenary Challenge Cup Handicap (1650m) at Happy Valley.
But the handler is not one for feeling pressure’s pinch - “I’ve been here too long” - and believes he has plenty to look forward to in the coming months.
“I’ve got a lot of young horses about to step out and a few of them look alright, too,” the Kiwi said.
“I predicted I was going to have a tough first half – not quite this tough – I looked at the horses and knew they had to come down the handicap before they could win. But I’m pretty happy with the young ones – it’s just a matter of being patient and keeping your head on your shoulders.”
Merrygowin lands the Rotary Centenary Challenge Cup under Karis Teetan, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Merrygowin (128lb) tracked the front-running Glory Star (119lb) and kicked on in the straight for a grinding win over the unfortunate runner-up Naboo Star (120lb) – Purton’s mount got tied up in traffic on the final turn but stormed to within half a length at the line.
“He’s an honest horse,” O’Sullivan said of the winner. “He ran well in Class 3 two starts back, he drew the gate tonight and things fell into his lap. He’s going to go back up to Class 3 and do his best.”
Karis Teetan drove the O’Sullivan gelding to victory and the Mauritian was busy again in the last contest, pushing vigorously to snag the Class 3 Tsuen Wan Handicap (1650m) on the Tony Millard-trained Arcada.
The David Ferraris-trained London Master nailed back-to-back wins under Neil Callan, driving wide in the home run to take race three.
Trendiful gave first-season handler Jimmy Ting his 26th win of the campaign in the Class 5 opener, with Vincent Ho the man in the plate.
Victor Wong has hit a rich vein of form and the seven-pound apprentice scored on the front-running Frankie Lor-trained sprinter Speed Vision in the Class 3 Sai Kung Handicap (1200m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday, 24 February.
London Master and Neil Callan, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club