Chasing breakthrough LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) success on Sunday 10 December, Alexis Badel laid down a positive marker for the showpiece meeting when the Frenchman posted a confidence-boosting double at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Booked to ride defending champion Wellington in the Gr1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint, Champion Dragon in the Gr1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup and Five G Patch in the Gr1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase , Badel scored with Ping Hai Galaxy in the Class 2 The Peninsula Golden Jubilee Challenge Cup Handicap for John Size and aboard David Hall’s Summit Cheers in the Class 3 Mody Handicap.
“It feels great,” Badel said. “I knew I had some good rides recently, so my momentum was good and I am glad that I was able to deliver today. Ping Hai Galaxy made my life very easy, the other one (Summit Cheers) is a bit more difficult because you need the right timing on him.
“Everything next week is set up pretty well for me.”
With 10 wins for the season, Badel notched his second double of the campaign as he seeks LONGINES HKIR glory at the weekend but he is yet register a win from six LONGINES HKIR rides.
Badel attributed Ping Hai Galaxy’s victory to the grey’s exceptional speed.
“It was brilliant, the horse made it look so easy because he’s got that fabulous gate speed and obviously there’s not many horses that can get these horses off the bridle and he’s one of them – he won pretty comfortably, actually. He’s a lovely horse and he made my life so much easier,” Badel said.
Badel’s brace was matched by six-time Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton, who partnered impressive David Hayes-trained newcomer Ka Ying Rising and Size’s Pins Prince in the Class 3 Salisbury Handicap (1400m).
With 34 victories this season, Purton leads the 2023/24 championship by 12 from Karis Teetan (22).
Lyle Hewitson employed dashing tactics on Yellowfin, who cruised to a three-and-a-quarter length margin in the Class 3 Humphreys Handicap (1650m, dirt) for Francis Lui – who also clinched a double.
“It’s going to look like now he’s an out and out dirt horse but he won like this in Class 4,” Hewitson said.
“He’s just got that smooth, perfect trip where if he can go through each gear with less pressure in his own time when he can breathe, then he’s capable of a performance like this.
“He enjoyed the dirt but it was more about the way he raced and when they came and matched him at the 600 (metres) and got to his girth, it just sort of put the light switch back on and I opened my hands and he just got stronger. It was a win full of merit and the team did a good job between runs for him to bounce back like this.”
Lui slotted his brace when Holy Lake landed the Class 4 Nathan Handicap (1400m) as his former protégé Pierre Ng continued an extraordinary start to the season when Starship Eighty became the second-season trainer’s 21st individual winner of the campaign.
Winless in 18 previous starts, Starship Eighty provided Ng with his 28th victory of the season with success in the Class 5 Ashley Handicap (1650, dirt) under Karis Teetan.
Hayes unveiled talented sprinter Ka Ying Rising with in an impressive debut in the Class 4 Hankow Handicap (1200m) under Purton.
“He’s done everything right at the trials and he seems to have a good brain, which he showed again today mid-race when he took a nice sit and then did what he had to do,” Purton said.
Hayes said: “It’s a relief to see him do what I thought he could do. I thought he was good, and you have to hold your tongue a bit until they do it in a race.
“I think he’ll be able to compete in Class 3, for sure. I would rather him run in Class 3 with a light weight because he’s only three. His weakness is that he’s still a bit immature with his eating. I’ll get him eating well over the next two weeks, and then I’ll look for a race in probably a month.”
Judy’s Great, a three-year-old by War Decree, snared the Class 4 Middle Handicap (1200m dirt) for James McDonald and Danny Shum as the jockey and trainer covet successive wins in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup with Romantic Warrior on 10 December.
“He’s a nice horse and he’s still only young,” Shum said. “Today, there was no bias on the dirt, so he was able to do a good job and win. I’ll take my time with him.”
Strive For Glory, who finished fourth at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (29 December), emerged victorious on the four-day turnaround for Chris So in the Class 5 Cameron Handicap (1200m, dirt) under Keagan De Melo.
Former British galloper All Are Mine – a maiden winner at Windsor for Brian Meehan in October, 2022 – broke through for his first Hong Kong triumph for Tony Cruz and Angus Chung with success in the Class 4 Carnarvon Handicap (1800m, dirt).
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday 6 December with the staging of the 2023 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship.