Ricky Yiu left Happy Valley last week with a maiden Hong Kong win for one of his young prospects and on Wednesday night the handler is looking for a breakthrough run from another rookie, the three-year-old Shining Gem.
“He’s been close his last two races, he’s a nice three-year-old by a good sire,” the handler said this on Tuesday morning at Sha Tin.
Yiu is a noted developer of young stock, especially the speedy southern hemisphere variety. This morning his thoughts were with the finest of that ilk to have passed through his stable, the one whose victories gave him the greatest satisfaction of all.
The great sprinter Sacred Kingdom passed away in Australia last week.
“It’s sad. The guy who looked after him, he went to feed him that morning and found that he was lame behind. They sent him to the clinic and found that he had a broken leg - it was in a bad spot that can't be managed and they had to put him down,” Yiu said.
Sacred Kingdom had been enjoying retirement “in a good, flat paddock” at his birthplace, Kornong Stud Farm in Victoria.
“He went back to his mum (Courtroom Sweetie). He went back there to be with his dam and he’d been happy with her in the paddock,” the handler said. “He was only 15 - we thought he’d have a long retirement. Something just happened during the night.”
Sacred Kingdom won 17 races including the G1 Hong Kong Sprint twice and the KrisFlyer Sprint in Singapore. He was rated the world champion sprinter three years running and still holds two track records at Sha Tin: he blitzed the 1000m in 54.70s and once roared through the 1200m in 1m 07.50s.
The Encosta De Lago gelding raced in the silks of his proud owner Sin Kang Yuk.
“The owner didn’t accept it that well, he was very upset,” Yiu said. “He went back every year to the farm to see the horse. He has asked that they find a quiet spot on the farm to bury him and give him a grave.
“He was my dream horse and no horse can replace him,” the trainer added. “He’s the only horse that has given me excitement every morning that I woke up. When the alarm clock woke me up, I thought, ‘I’m going to see the good horse’ and he was the only horse that gave me that feeling every morning.”
Ricky Yiu charted Sacred Kingdom’s career with Brett Prebble up to world champion status, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Gem aims to shine
Shining Gem will attempt to brighten the mood when he lines up in section one of the Class 3 Matheson Handicap (1200m) at the midweek fixture. The Makfi gelding has raced three times, placing third two starts back and running a solid fourth at the course and distance three weeks ago.
The bay has started from gate nine in his recent two races but gets a nice berth in gate four this time, with the ever-present Umberto Rispoli once again in the plate.
“He’s versatile,” Yiu said. “Last time we had to ride him from the back because of a bad draw but he can travel handy as well. He’s an honest horse and he’s done nothing wrong so far. We like him.
“He’ll step up in distance in time, that’s for sure. He’s new here, it’s his first season but he’s so genuine.”
Yiu’s Alcari lines up in section two of the Class 3 Matheson Handicap (1200m) having flashed home a short-head second to High Five at the course and distance seven days ago.
Grant van Niekerk maintains his partnership with the Hong Kong International Sale graduate who is chasing a third career win and will start from gate two.
“The draw makes a huge difference, that’s half the battle already,” the South Africam said. “He just ran last week but I think he’ll run well again, I just need to get him in the perfect spot. Hopefully he can win this time.
“Last time I thought maybe I was a little unlucky on him, not to get out. I’m sure Ricky will have freshened him up for the race and I’m sure he’ll run a good race again.”
The four-year-old faces a field of useful rivals, including Loving A Boom and the Frankie Lor-trained debutant Fat Turtle, the mount of Zac Purton.
Also on the card, the hat-trick seeking Clear Choice, trained by Danny Shum, will attempt to defy top-weight under Silvestre de Sousa in section two of the Class 4 Jardine Handicap (1650m).
The action starts at 7.15pm with the Class 5 East Point Handicap (1200m).