Frankie Lor reclaimed second place in the Hong Kong trainers’ championship with a Sha Tin treble on Wednesday night (29 March) to boost hopes of a successful title defence.
After a relatively slow start to March, Lor finished in a blaze with nine winners for the month, including two trebles.
Typically coy about championship success, Lor again downplayed title hopes despite moving to 43 wins for the 2022/23 season, five behind his former boss – 11-time champion trainer John Size (48).
“It’s still too early to tell,” Lor said, referring to the title race. “My old boss is getting winners and Ricky Yiu (also with 43 wins but fewer minor placings) is also doing well. I just do my best and hope to have winners for my owners.
“It’s been a good night. Sometimes when the draws are not so good, it can be a surprise.”
Lor’s treble came from the final three races at the all-dirt meeting – Hava Nageela, Youthful Deal and Adios – to take training honours on the night as Silvestre de Sousa, Karis Teetan and Matthew Chadwick snared doubles.
Hava Nageela was the first of Lor’s victors, collecting a HK$1 million PP Bonus for winning the Class 3 Silvermine Bay Handicap (1650m) when the former Irish galloper proved too strong under De Sousa.
Bought as a 2023 BMW Hong Kong Derby hopeful, the Aclaim gelding had struggled to recapture the form which delivered three consecutive wins in Ireland when he raced as Warren Beach for Ken Condon.
“He’s a nice horse – that’s why I entered him for the Derby but I couldn’t get his rating up for the race. I still think we can get him up in distance and he can hopefully get to Class 2,” Lor said.
Lor doubled his haul when Vincent Ho – substituting for Zac Purton, who stood down from riding after one mount because of illness – coaxed the best out of Youthful Deal to deny Gummy Gummy in the Class 3 Tong Fuk Handicap (1200m).
Lor’s final leg came with Adios’ surging performance in the Class 2 Tung Wan Handicap (1200m) under Keetan. Carrying only 115lb, Adios’ successful debut in Class 2 delivered a Top-Up Bonus of HK$1 million in addition to the HK$1.5 million prize money.
Lor’s haul came as Luke Currie posted his first win in Hong Kong since 7 December when the Australian guided Lucky Banner to win the second section of Class 4 Pui O Handicap (1200m) for Caspar Fownes.
Triumphant in the All-Star Mile aboard Mr Brightside in Melbourne on 18 March, Currie was delighted to snap a 105-ride losing streak in Hong Kong.
“(It’s) very good, nice to get the monkey off the back. I think I haven’t been riding too badly and obviously everyone makes mistakes and I’ve had a few mistakes along the way but, all in all, I don’t think I’ve been doing a lot wrong – I just haven’t been finding the right horses on the right day, but today was it,” Currie said.
Fownes, who terminated a 46-runner winless sequence, was delighted for Lucky Banner’s connections – and Currie.
“He (Lucky Banner) was much better behaved tonight. Of course, draw one really helped us, and very happy for Luke Currie. That’s the most important thing. He needs some support. Hopefully, he can get some more winners and everyone’s happy,” Fownes said.
Size consolidated his lead at the top of the 2022/23 Hong Kong trainers’ championship when Shining Fortune landed the first section of the Class 4 Pui O Handicap (1200m) before Asian One notched his second win of the season with victory in the Class 4 Kiu Tsui Handicap (1650m) for Jamie Richards.
“He’s been running really well all season. He’s been racing really consistently, the team at home have done a good job with him and Matthew Chadwick gave him a lovely ride – nice and smooth,” said Richards after slotting his first win on dirt this season.
Shedding his maiden status at his 33rd start with the victory in the Class 5 Hap Mun Bay Handicap (1200m) under De Sousa, Zacian provided Danny Shum’s stable with its 35th win of the season with a short-head margin over Smart Folks.
Narrowly denied with Smart Folks, Michael Chang landed his fourth win from his past five runners when Speed Force cruised to a two-length triumph under Chadwick in the Class 5 Cheung Sha Handicap (1800m).
Hong Kong racing continues on Sunday (2 April) at Sha Tin.
By Leo Schlink, HKJC