Private Secretary storms into the BMW Hong Kong Derby picture

Private Secretary lays out his Derby credentials under Vincent Ho.

By David Morgan, Hong Kong Jockey Club

Private Secretary showed no first night nerves with an accomplished debut win at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 26 December) that signaled trainer Tony Cruz’s BMW Hong Kong Derby intent.

“He’s been my Derby horse from day one – this is my best chance. I have Star Performance and I think he has Derby prospects too – these are my Derby horses this season,” Cruz said.

The Kingman colt arrived at Cruz’s Sha Tin stable at the end of August with a classy profile: the bay won three times from six starts in Britain for his former handler John Gosden, including the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood over 2240m.

Despite Private Secretary’s evident prowess over a distance beyond the Derby’s 2000m, Cruz was not concerned about pitching the well-balanced import into Class 2 company over 1650m for his first assignment.

“I’m not surprised, I know he’s got it,” he said after his exciting prospect had taken the Chai Wan Kok Handicap by a length.

“Drawn one today, I was expecting good results. In the future he’ll need further, he’ll go up to 2000 metres – I think he’s perfect for the Hong Kong Derby.

“I’ve been excited about him from the start. His owner Mr. Siu Pak Kwan told me he’d like to put the horse with me and would I like to accept and I said to him this was the horse I wanted to have.”

Vincent Ho settled Private Secretary (123lb) behind the front-running Hezthewonforus (130lb) and the 87-rated three-year-old moved easily before arrowing through a gap on the rail, quickening home from the closing three-time winner Happy Dragon (124lb).

“He’d never been here before, so to win like that on his debut, I’m very happy with him,” Cruz said.

Badel hits a hat-trick

Badel scores on Dor Dor (pink silks) for John Size.

Alexis Badel bossed the mid-portion of the Boxing Day card with a treble that featured a couple of perhaps notable firsts.

The Frenchman had not scored for either the powerful John Size stable or the increasingly influential Francis Lui yard before tonight, but remedied that in races three and four before going on to notch a hat-trick in the evening’s fifth contest aboard the Douglas Whyte-trained Victory Power.

“They are three good trainers and when you jump on a good horse the job is even easier,” Badel said. “Tonight, I had good chances of course and I’m happy it worked for me and for the connections who gave me the chance.”

Badel has now teamed with Whyte for four wins and the first-season handler was pleased with his jockey’s execution in the hat-trick-sealing Class 4 Tsing Lung Tau Handicap (1200m).

“I’ve ridden against Alexis and I’ve seen his assets: he’s got a lovely pair of hands on him and once a horse gets rolling, they tend to keep rolling; he’s got a nice rhythm,” Whyte said.

“He rode the horse last time (when third) and a lot of people were critical of his ride. I didn’t think it was the best ride but I was happy with the ride. What was beneficial out of that was that we both learned something: when we got gate nine tonight we decided we were going to be positive, not rush him forward but stay wide – he’s a horse that needs to get going and he needs to stay out of trouble.

“Alexis rode a 10 out of 10 race, being three wide no cover,” Whyte continued. “You wouldn’t say that often but it was a nice ride, he got him going at the right time and he kept him rolling.”

Badel scores on Dor Dor (pink silks) for John Size.

Badel was outwardly modest about his festive treble.

“I’m just doing my job, I’m trying hard to learn from the good jockeys here,” he said.

“Happy Valley is a special track, even if you have a good gate, good horses, there is still always pressure on your shoulders, so I try to ride each horse to its abilities and adapt to the pace of the race.”

That approach was evident in both of Badel’s earlier wins.

The Frenchman fired Dor Dor along an inside alley to foil the centre-track charge of race favourite Winning Endeavour and earn his first win for champion trainer John Size in section two of the Class 4 Tsing Yi Handicap (1650m).

And he produced a ride of cool intelligence one race later, section one of the Tsing Yi Handicap (1650m), bagging a first win for the Francis Lui stable. Badel made a decisive mid-race advance atop Management Star, working wide to lead turning in and then driving his mount to a three-quarter-length score.

Three for Van Niekerk

Badel was not alone in striking three times on the night. Grant van Niekerk nailed a treble in the last when the Danny Shum-trained Winning Method made just about all to win the Class 3 Kap Shui Mun Handicap (1200m).

The South African went almost a month without a win before hitting the mark again at Sha Tin last Saturday.

“My suspension just stopped my momentum and when that happens you don’t really get your rides back but I’m glad I’m getting good support again,” he said.

“If you get your chance here you have to make the most of what you get and do your best. It’s hard to keep your rides here and it’s very hard to get a winner on the day so to get three, I’m very happy.”

Earlier, Clement Legend once again exhibited his liking for 2200m around Happy Valley and Van Niekerk benefitted. The game Shum-trained five-year-old dug deep to bag his fourth career win at the course and distance in the Class 3 Shan Tseng Handicap.

Van Niekerk partnered the John Moore-trained G Unit to success in the Class 4 Ting Kau Handicap (1000m).

The Peter Ho-trained Magnificent put daylight on his rivals in the Class 3 Ma Wan Handicap (1650m), streaking down the home stretch to give champion jockey Zac Purton his 44th win in his pursuit of premiership leader Joao Moreira.

The Class 5 opener, the Yau Kom Tau Handicap (1200m), went to 25/1 shot Lightning Missile (117lb) who fended off the 23/1 chance Show Mission (117lb) by a neck. Vincent Ho sealed his 21st win for the term atop the Manfred Man-trained victor.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday, 29 December.

Author: iRace