Sha Tin’s Easter Monday meeting was billed as a day likely to showcase some of Hong Kong’s most promising gallopers and it lived up to expectations.
The Paul O’Sullivan-trained Band Of Brothers set the ball rolling with his game win, under the burden of 133 pounds, in the Class 4 Kestrel Handicap (1400m) before Ricky Yiu’s Voyage Warrior well and truly underlined his pretensions to top class with a fast and comprehensive win in the Class 3 Hong Kong Lions Cup Handicap (1000m).
Then, the meeting closed with Danny Shum’s Perfect Match not to be outdone as he posted his fourth win from six starts with a comprehensive victory, which completed a treble for jockey Zac Purton, in the Class 3 Tern Handicap (1400m).
Voyage Warrior made it two wins from as many starts when he recorded a sizzling 54.89, just 0.19 outside Scared Kingdom’s course record, despite being throttled down over the last 75 metres by jockey Karis Teetan.
It was a performance which had Yiu daring to mention Voyage Warrior in the same breath as his former champion Sacred Kingdom whom he prepared to 17 wins including the 2007 and 2009 editions of the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint.
“Wow, that was my first reaction,” Yiu said, “The first thing I asked the jockey when he came back was ‘did you actually hit him’ and he said, no. It is very exciting and I’m going to say this now, this is the one that might have a bit of a comparison with Sacred Kingdom. Not after he won first time out, it was too early to tell then but maybe now I can say it.”
While Voyage Warrior’s two wins have come down the straight 1000 metres course, Yiu believes he will cope with a step to 1200 metres which is vital if he is to progress to the top level.
“No matter how good they are, I don’t just want another Amber Sky who was limited to the 1000 (metres). To be an international Group 1 horse, you need to compete at 1200 (metres). I think he’ll cope. During the race he’s so relaxed, he didn’t go nuts or do anything wrong out there today. He is still learning, this is just the second time he’s run and it’s all natural ability. He doesn’t really know what’s going on yet. He’s got a good turn of foot…it’s really something,” Yiu said.
As to his next assignment, Yiu said: “Depends on how many rating points they (the handicapping panel) give him.”
Winning jockey Teetan, who also won the opening race on General Dino, was similarly taken. “From the first win he, of course, jumped in class today; up 14 points. I know he could handle but it’s in the back of your mind, he’s jumping straight into class 3 but you know just putting it all together, he’s the best. You just feel real quality about him.
“He was actually more relaxed today than last time. He was coasting in front and I was starting to worry. I could feel him dropping the anchor and just lobbing along a little bit but when I had to pick him up he gave for me straight away. He was pretty much relaxed out there. I didn’t press him too hard but just enough to make sure that when the time comes he knows when he needs to let down. He’s still young and got a bright future in front of him,” Teetan said.
Trainer Paul O'Sullivan celebrates Band Of Brothers' win with his owners, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Band Of Brothers also records second Hong Kong win
Band Of Brothers, registered his second straight win at the Sha Tin 1400 metres and his second from just three starts in Hong Kong after being sourced in New Zealand.
“He is a promising type of horse and he’ll get further than this. We’ll probably go to 1600 (metres) next time and he’ll be up to Class 3 but he’ll drop in weight with that rise in grade and he won well today. He copped a bit of a buffeting and overcame that,” O’Sullivan said.
The aptly named four-year-old son of Sakhee’s Secret began his training with O’Sullivan’s brother Lance, in New Zealand, as many of his stablemates have done. “He didn’t go through a yearling sale so I’m not sure what happened there. Something must have gone wrong. So they gave him to Lance to prepare him with a view to selling.
“I saw him last July and really liked him. He won his one trial over there very easily. Have a good look at him, he’s a smashing type and fortunately I had a group of owners here with a PPG permit so we were able to secure him,” O’Sullivan said.
The gelding, who is raced by the Z Power Syndicate and was ridden by champion jockey Zac Purton who’d finished second in the opening two races, was likely to have a further two or three runs this season according to his trainer.
“Probably three more runs, I’d think. Six starts is generally enough for them in their first season so I wouldn’t push him beyond that. He’s a nice horse and I hope you’re talking to me, about him, later in his career,” he said.