Jockey Andrea Atzeni has hit the ground running in Hong Kong and his strong early season form, which he hopes to maintain, has seen him rewarded with a booking in each of the three Gr2 races on 19 November at Sha Tin.
The experienced Italian rides Duke Wai in the HK$5.35 million Gr2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint, Healthy Happy in the HK$5.35 million Gr2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile and Glorious Dragon in the HK$5.35 million Gr2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup, with the races serving as traditional lead-up contests for the HK$118 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on 10 December.
“I’m very happy – things are going very well actually. It’s a little bit of a surprise, I must admit, I was hoping to do well and get a few winners on the board but to ride 10 winners already is more than I thought I would achieve at this stage of my stint,” Atzeni said.
Duke Wai finished third in the HK$5.35 million Gr2 Premier Bowl Handicap on 22 October, while Healthy Happy made all to land the HK$4.2 million Gr3 Celebration Cup Handicap upon resumption on 24 September.
Glorious Dragon returns after being well beaten in the Gr1 Dubai Turf last March at Meydan in Dubai.
Atzeni will ride all three gallopers in races for the first time on Sunday week.
“Healthy Happy – he was a Group 3 winner last start. He’s a forward-going horse. It does look like a strong race but he has some fitness on his side,” Atzeni said.
Pierre Ng trains both Duke Wai and Glorious Dragon, while his other entrant Super Wealthy teams with jockey Luke Ferraris in the BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint.
Having banked 10 wins from 88 rides, Atzeni has maintained a steady flow of winners; he’s collected two doubles and has eight wins since mid-October.
He takes eight rides out of a possible nine on Wednesday, 8 November at Happy Valley.
“It’s going great and it’s nice to get regular winners, I’m picking up good rides and the quality is improving. I’m also lucky I can do light, I can ride 115 pounds,” Atzeni said.
Among his midweek book, Atzeni pairs with Goko Win in a competitive HK$2.84 million Class 2 Stanley Handicap for trainer Dennis Yip, while his earlier mounts are Soaring Tower, Tsuen Wan Glory, G One Excellent, Amazing Boy, Round The Globe, Beauty Missile and Grateful Heart.
Coming up against Atzeni and Goko Win in the finale is Son Pak Fu, armed with jockey Jerry Chau. Chau and Son Pak Fu won four consecutive races last season and finished second first-up on rain affected ground at the Valley last month.
“He is my favourite horse. I was a bit worried going up to Class 2, whether he got a light weight and I couldn’t ride him but luckily, I can make the weight to stick with him. I know him well, I think he has the quality to be competitive in Class 2,” Chau said.
Chau has ridden the Fighting Sun gelding in each of his 15 starts for trainer Benno Yung. He’s been assigned 119lb this week.
“First-up, with top weight, luckily it rained which is good for him but he went really, really well. I’m happy with his form this season,” Chau said.
Rewarding Together, Majestic Star, Nordic Dragon, Campione, Eason, Bundle Of Charm, Ima Single Man, Power Koepp, Reward Smile and Xponential also feature.
The two-time winning Sweet Briar made an eye-catching return this season with jockey Lyle Hewitson, finishing third behind Lightning Bolt and Reward Smile, respectively.
The five-year-old chases redemption over Lightning Bolt this week in the Class 3 Shek O Handicap. The Francis Lui-trained Sweet Briar will carry 121lb from gate nine.
“I thought he did a good job there first time. He got a bit unbalanced on the final turn which meant that they flushed him out pretty easy, but he found his feet again and fought on towards the line.
“We have an awkward barrier to work with but he’s a versatile horse and he has a bit of tactical speed too, so we’ll work it out and give him as good a run as possible,” Hewitson said.
Wednesday’s nine-race fixture at Happy Valley commences at 12h40 with the Class 5 Big Wave Bay Handicap.