Francis Lui Posts Crucial Double At The Valley

Wednesday action at Happy Valley

The 2023/24 Hong Kong trainers’ championship continues to hang in the balance after Francis Lui posted a crucial double, spearheaded by Copartner Prance’s sixth successive win, at Happy Valley on Wednesday to draw onto almost level terms with Pierre Ng in the title race.

Copartner Prance makes it six in a row

Copartner Prance makes it six in a row (Pic – HKJC)

With only five meetings left in the season, Ng and Lui both have 65 wins but Ng holds sway by virtue of more minor placings as the pair’s rollercoaster battle rolls on.

On a day where Zac Purton and Karis Teetan excelled with trebles, Lui erased Ng’s two-win buffer as Mark Newnham and Luke Ferraris combined with a brace.

Lui first struck with debutante Packing Hermod in the first section of Class 4 Ng Tung River Handicap under Purton before the six-time champion jockey drove Copartner Prance to victory in the Class 2 Tan Shan River Handicap.

“What a tenacious horse he’s turned into, he’s come a long way in a short period of time. It just seems to be getting a little bit better all of the time, which is what you hope they do when they mature and develop,” Purton said of Copartner Prance.

“He feels like he’s got a little bit more there so next season after he’s had a bit of a break, he can take another step.”

Zac Purton celebrates a treble

Zac Purton celebrates a treble (Pic – HKJC)

Winless in his first four starts, Copartner Prance has since thrived for Lui, surging through the grades to become the first horse this season to log six successive wins in Hong Kong after starting his career in Class 4.

“He keeps improving. Of course, it is hard to win six in a row,” Lui said. “There’s a 1200m race at Sha Tin towards the end of the season, but we’ll see how he recovers after the race and I’ll leave it to Zac.”

Having piloted Comet Splendido to victory for Danny Shum in the Class 4 Beas River Handicap, Purton partnered Packing Hermod to an impressive win in the first section of Class 4 Ng Tung River Handicap.

“It was a really good effort because he worked himself up pretty bad before the start, he was sweating a lot and on his toes and I thought he cooked himself a little bit,” Purton said. “He was standing nice, in the barriers, but he didn’t come out cleanly and I was a bit further back than I wanted to be but I was able to get a nice run.

“He didn’t change his leg in the straight – it was a good start.”

Lui hopes Packing Hermod can feature in the Four-Year-Old Classic series next season.

“He’s a good horse but he’s still a three-year-old. I think he’ll have a lot of improvement next season,” he said. “I think he can step up in distance, he’s very relaxed when he travels.

“I hope he can be a Classic Series horse and I hope in the off season he can grow up. He still has a lot of room to improve and grow.”

Karis Teetan has 82 wins for the season

Karis Teetan has 82 wins for the season (Pic – HKJC)

Teetan matched Purton’s treble and vaulted past the 80-win mark after wins on Me Tsui Arthur’s Kingdom in the Class 5 Nam Chung River Handicap, Chain Of Gold in the Class 3 Sha Tau Kok River Handicap for Cody Mo and David Hall’s Kyrus Dragon in the Class 3 Shek Sheung River Handicap.

“It’s been a very good season and I’m very thankful for the support I get from owners and trainers throughout the season, it means a lot,” Teetan said. “I try to be consistent throughout the season, keep ticking the winners over and keep on building up momentum.

“I don’t normally set a target, but it’s great to get to 80 wins.”

Luke Ferraris and Mark Newnham extended a flourishing partnership with a double, striking with Setanta in the Class 4 Pearce Memorial Challenge Cup Handicap and One For All in the second section of the Class 4 Ng Tung River Handicap.

Referring to his alliance with Ferraris, Newnham said: “We’re going well. We’ve had a good second half. I think this is the fourth meeting in a row we’ve had a winner, so if we can keep that up until the end of the season, I’ll be very happy.”

Ferraris said: “Mark has been fantastic to me. He’s really supported me solidly throughout the season and, as I’ve touched on before, it’s always nice to repay him with a winner – long may it continue,” Ferraris said.

Ricky Yiu’s Hayday made it two wins from his past three starts by leading throughout to snare the third section of the Class 4 Ng Tung River Handicap.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Monday with the Hong Kong Reunification Raceday.

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