By David Morgan, Hong Kong Jockey Club
Antoine Hamelin started his Hong Kong career on the right foot with a pair of wins at Sha Tin this afternoon, Sunday, 12 April.
The Frenchman went into his first Hong Kong race day knowing that first impressions are not only important in Hong Kong racing but also they can make or break a rider, so it was with apparent delight and relief that he weighed-in after his maiden win.
“I’m really happy, there’s a lot of emotion. I didn’t give it a big celebration because it didn’t feel the right thing to do here but I’m very happy inside,” he beamed.
Hamelin stepped out of 14-day isolation only a few days prior and his enthusiasm to get rolling was evident in the powerful drive that nicked section one of the Class 4 Mong Kok Handicap (1400m). His willing steed was the Me Tsui-trained Best For You.
The rider, best known for his partnership with French Derby winner Saonois, is the latest in a long and distinguished line of French jockeys to test their skills in Hong Kong. Already this season, Alexis Badel (26 wins) and Tony Piccone (8 wins) set a solid standard with their completed mid-season contracts.
“It’s very important to win on my first day, that was my objective and now I want to go on and win another race!” Hamelin said.
And he did just that; his second was a blazing dash on the Danny Shum-trained Baltic Success who strode away with the Class 3 Ho Man Tin Handicap (1000m)
“The horse did it very well, he was an easy winner. We got a perfect start and when we got to the front he liked to lead and he went fast,” Hamelin said.
“It’s a perfect first day for me. I’ll try to continue and I have to say thank you to all the owners and trainers for the support and the chances they’ve given me.”
Treble as Fortune favours Moreira
Joao Moreira and Zac Purton know that every win is massive in their duel for this season’s champion jockey title, so the outcome of a stewards’ inquiry and objection after a head-bobber between the pair in the section two of the Class 4 Mong Kok Handicap (1400m) could prove vital in the final count.
Moreira got the John Size-trained Leading Fortune’s (119lb) nose down bang on the wire to edge Purton’s mount Party Genius (125lb) by a short-head, but the Brazilian had battled his own horse as well as his rival to get there. Leading Fortune repeatedly lugged into Party Genius down the length of the straight, buffeting his opponent despite Moreira’s attempts to correct while maintaining forceful momentum.
The stewards ruled in Moreira’s favour, throwing out the objection and denying Purton a first win for his former arch riding rival Douglas Whyte.
“The horse made it so tough for me – he was just not doing things correctly. Unfortunately we had to decide it in the stewards’ room but I think the decision to keep it how we finished was the right one,” Moreira said.
That moved the three-time champion to 99 wins for the term and he became the first jockey this season to hit the century mark in race eight, the Class 3 Jordan Handicap (1800m).
“I wasn’t thinking about that but it’s good to get there!” Moreira said.
The milestone win came on the Whyte-trained Enzemble. The five-year-old made his Hong Kong breakthrough at the 10th attempt thanks to a determined late kick.
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) April 12, 2020
“I was confident about him even knowing that he’s not yet at his very best, so to win is a good sign. He got the perfect run and when I pulled him out he was always going to be strong to the line.”
Moreira made it a treble in the 10th race, the Class 3 Hung Hom Handicap (1400m). The ‘Magic Man’ rattled from deep with a rail run aboard Fantastic Show (117lb) that ensured the Tsui-trained galloper a third win on the bounce and denied Purton on the smart Irish import Beauty Smile (130lb).
Purton was on the mark aboard Good View Clarico (130lb) in section 2 of the King’s Park Handicap (1200m). The Dennis Yip-trained three-year-old held off Casa De Forca (127lb) by three quarters of a length.
That meant Purton end the day four wins behind Moreira in the championship standings.
President gets Chang’s vote
Trainer Michael Chang appears to have a nice horse on his hands. Pickings have been slim since the days of G1 winner Rich Tapestry but the stable tally hit 11 for the term with President’s Choice’s deep-closing run to victory in the section one of the Class 4 King’s Park Handicap (1200m).
Chang’s repeated cry of “Come on Teetan!” echoed around the empty grandstands as jockey Karis Teetan drove the top-weight from off the pace to nail a length and a quarter score.
“The horse is improving and I hope he can still be competitive in Class 3. I expect he will stay further than this in time,” the trainer said of the four-year-old who has now won two of his four starts.
Teetan wrapped up the card with a smart win in the Class 2 Austin Handicap atop the Jimmy Ting-trained Ballistic King (114lb). The five-year-old earned a well-deserved second Hong Kong success from runner-up Beauty Legacy (133lb), with Decrypt (128lb) third.
A cloudless opening to the 11-race card saw Sunny Star win the season’s first Griffin race, the Yau Ma Tei Plate (1000m), but the US-bred gelding had to overcome a tardy start before outpointing his five fellow newcomers by two and a quarter lengths.
The Francis Lui-trained three-year-old travelled onto the heels of the leading quartet with 300m to race, cut between runners to make a line of five at the 150m point and drove on to victory under Vincent Ho.
“I expected he could jump out together with the other horses but he missed the kick a little bit – Vincent said it was because he sat down in the gate,” Lui said.
“It was weak race and my horse is more mature than the others, his gallops have been very competitive. It’s a good start and I think we’ll stick to the Griffin races for now.”
Rumours swirled in the local media ahead of racing that the trainer’s brilliant BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner Golden Sixty might not make it to the FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) on 26 April. Lui said no decision had been reached.
“I’ll discuss it with Vincent tomorrow (Monday),” the handler said.
Hong Kong International Sale graduate Prawn Yeah Yeah took the second of the afternoon’s three straight dashes, the Class 5 Tai Kok Tsui Handicap (1000m). Chad Schofield drove the Richard Gibson-trained five-year-old to his second career win.
McMunigal bagged his second Hong Kong win in the Class 5 Tsim Sha Tsui Handicap (1800m), Matthew Poon kicked clear on the David Hall-trained five-year-old to seal a two and a quarter-length success.
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 15 April.