Perfect Glory shrugged off a hefty barge close home in the Class 3 Citi Sprint Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m) to maintain an exemplary record and help trainer Caspar Fownes to a treble at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Perfect Glory (in orange) makes a winning Hong Kong debut in the Class 3 Citi Sprint Challenge Cup Handicap in Race 6.
The rare demotion of not one but two winners for interference at Sha Tin on Sunday meant that there was a here-we-go-again sigh from the crowd when a line of six contenders bunched and bumped inside the final 100 metres of the night’s trophy race.
This time, though, the winner was beyond reproach. Perfect Glory’s momentum powered him through the trouble to pass the post first under Chad Schofield.
“I established a run early in the straight and while I was in that run I got the interference –it actually twisted my horse’s hind quarters and directed me out,” Schofield said.
“Luckily I was coming through that run at such a quick rate that I skipped on through and he ended up winning quite comfortably. He was very relaxed in the run and he was very strong the last 200 (metres).”
It was a winning Hong Kong debut for 17/1 shot Perfect Glory, whose pre-import record in Australia stands at three wins from three runs.
“It was a good effort first up, especially over a distance that’s a bit sharp for him,” Fownes said. “We’re very happy, he’s a nice horse and he looks to have a decent future – he’ll take a lot of benefit from that first run.
“He’s got a big engine; he’s proved that today and hopefully we can keep going forward.”
Fownes teamed with his former apprentice Vincent Ho to bookend the card. Ho continued his fine form with an all-the-way win on the lightly-weighted Po Ching Treasure in the Class 4 opener, and made it seven wins for the campaign when The Judge nicked the finale by a nose.
“I felt he was going to get there until the last 100 (metres) – he wasn’t giving me the same feeling and it was hard but he got there!” Ho said of The Judge.
“I’m getting a lot of support from trainers – the boss, Francis (Lui), Me Tsui, Manfred (Man) and David Hall. That gives me confidence and every summer when I go to Europe I learn something else – I keep improving.”
Dead-heat as The Show dips late
It was a night of close calls with three races decided by a short-head or less. But in Hong Kong dead-heats don’t come along too often, so when The Show’s muzzle dipped as Regency Honey’s rose in the final stride of the night’s second contest, the Valley crowd drew a collective gasp.
The slow-motion replay suggested a dead-heat: the board confirmed it.
“It doesn’t get any tighter!” co-winning jockey Zac Purton said. “I wasn’t sure if I won because we hit the line with our heads out of sync – his was coming down.”
The champion rider booted the Danny Shum-trained Regency Honey (120lb) for home at the top of the straight only to have the Eddy Lai-ridden The Show (124lb) peg him in the nick of time.
“I thought I’d won but after the finish I asked Zac and he said he’d won, so then I waited to see,” Lai said.
Lai, 44, landed his third win of the campaign on the Dennis Yip-trained eight-year-old and that placed him within two wins of last season’s overall total. The Jockey Club’s Licensing Committee informed Lai in June that his performance this season would be “closely monitored” as a result of the rider struggling with low returns in recent seasons.
“I’m very happy with the way things are going this season, much better than the last two years,” he said. “I haven’t changed my approach; I’m just working hard like I always do and hopefully I’ll get some rewards. Dennis Yip has supported me a lot, so I’m very thankful for that.”
At the top end of the jockeys’ premiership, Purton maintained a three-win gap over Karis Teetan. The champion sealed a double aboard the Michael Chang-trained Saul’s Special in the Class 2 Verbena Handicap (1000m).
The Show (in pink/black) and Regency Honey (in red/black) share the spoils in Race 2, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club