Via David Morgan, Hong Kong Jockey Club
Southern Legend (127lb) pocketed the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin this afternoon (Sunday, 3 November) after battling through a stirring duel with fellow Group 1 stalwart Time Warp (122lb).
The Caspar Fownes-trained victor passed the post a neck to the good in a track record time of 1m 45.25s, dipping 0.16s below the all-time mark Nassa set in the 2017 edition of this race.
Southern Legend’s success was his first on home turf since March 2018. Despite multiple placed efforts in the highest grade, the seven-year-old achieved his last two wins in Singapore’s SIN G1 Kranji Mile, and this afternoon’s reward owed plenty to jockey Alberto Sanna’s tactical savvy.
“This morning I talked through the race with Caspar and the plan was to sit between fourth and sixth, but my worry was that he would be stuck wide,” the Italian explained. “I asked him if I could charge the horse from the start to come across and then let him relax. I know that he’s the kind of horse that needs to breathe into the corner so that became the plan.”
Sanna executed the plan to perfection from his gate nine starting point, snaring a rail berth, cruising along in the front-running Time Warp’s slipstream and then driving past that rival to a well-deserved feature success.
“He’s been in good form so I was really positive about this and everything went to plan,” Sanna said.
It was the rider’s first Group race win in Hong Kong and some reward for the tough days of last season when he had to go through rigourous rehabilitation from two separate fracture injuries.
Fownes was not on hand to enjoy the moment: he was in Melbourne for a few days at the Spring Carnival.
The handler said earlier this week that options were open with regard to his Not A Single Doubt gelding’s target at December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races. The bay is engaged in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) and the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
“I think he can go either distance because earlier this year he finished off nicely against Exultant (at 2000 metres),” Sanna said after this afternoon’s win.
Champion Stayer Exultant (133lb) ran a fine race first-up for the season. Trainer Tony Cruz’s three-time G1 winner was outpaced on the turn but closed to finish third, a length and a quarter back.
“He ran well,” was jockey Zac Purton’s accurate assessment.
Stablemate and runner-up Time Warp – the 2017 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup hero – attempted to repeat the tactics that brought him Ladies’ Purse success last term. The chestnut was brave in defeat for jockey Alexis Badel.
“He ran very well, it seemed to me that he was fresh and very happy, we found an easy lead and he kept fighting in the straight. I was very happy,” the Frenchman said.
Macau raider Sacred Capital ran on well for fourth for trainer Joe Lau and jockey Peter Ho.
Thanks Forever could make it to the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on 8 December if he can get his rating to a high enough mark in time.
Trainer John Moore said he expected the four-year-old to get “about 10 points” from the handicapper following an easy length and three-quarter win under Neil Callan in the Class 2 Revlon Handicap (1200m). The bay was rated 92 for today’s assignment.
“He’ll probably be a bit short on rating for the Group 2 (Jockey Club Sprint) in a couple of weeks so we’ll look at the programme and see where we can race him – he could still go to the Group 1 in December,” the handler said.
“I didn’t expect him to win like that. I thought he’d stay in the Class so I could run him in a 1200-metre race on 17 November, the same day as the Group 2. I’ll see how he pulls up before we make a decision – I don’t particularly want to take on Aethero in that race.”
Beauty Applause is a work in progress and jockey Joao Moreira again stressed that fact after the bonny chestnut won first-up for the term in the Class 3 Canmake Tokyo Handicap (1200m).
“He’s still on the up but where he’s going to get up to, we’ll find out,” he shrugged.
Moreira was pleased, nonetheless, with the John Size-trained four-year-old. Beauty Applause led the field from gate one and kicked on down the straight to a three-quarter-length score at odds of 1.9.
“The gate helped him a lot but he was much more manageable today than he was last season,” the Brazilian said. “That was his first prep and this is his second so he has improved. He’s a nice horse with a bright future and he has done nothing wrong so we’ll see where he can get to.”
Leisured Feet took the opener, the Class 5 L’Oreal Paris Handicap (1200m), for trainer Chris So and jockey Vincent Ho. The rider doubled up aboard the Francis Lui-trained Cordyceps in the Class 3 La Estephe Handicap (1600m).
Lui was on the mark in the finale as well. Karis Teetan galvanised the trainer’s More Than This to take the Class 2 Eleanor Handicap (1600m). Teetan had earlier hit the target with the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Duke Wai.
The Danny Shum-trained Lucky More (125lb) was touted as a smart prospect for his first career start and was sent off the 1.5 favourite to win the Class 4 Kate Tokyo Handicap (1000m). But the four-year-old was caught close home when Duke Wai (133lb) maintained a relentless run from last at the 500m mark to take the spoils under Teetan.
Grant van Niekerk bagged a brace too. The South African celebrated his nation’s Rugby World Cup success with victories on the Me Tsui-trained Fresh Power in the Class 4 Kose Cosmeport Handicap (1200m) and the Frankie Lor-trained Flying
Victory in the Class 3 Ahava Handicap (1400m).
Apprentice Alfred Chan led all the way to score on the Douglas Whyte-trained Relentless Me in the Class Suisse Programme Handicap (1400m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 6 November.