Second Season Trainer Forges Ahead With Championship In Sight

Next Hong Kong meeting - Happy Valley on Wednesday

Pierre Ng landed a potentially decisive blow in the battle for the 2023/24 Hong Kong trainers’ championship with a treble highlighted by a pair of Gr3 victories at Sha Tin on Sunday to edge to a vital two-win lead over Francis Lui.

In only his second season of training, Ng boosted his tally to 65 wins when Mugen claimed the HK$4.2 million Gr3 Premier Cup Handicap and Galaxy Patch triumphed in the HK$4.2 million Gr3 Premier Plate Handicap.

With only six meetings left in the season, Ng not only regained the ascendency in his tussle with former mentor Lui, who has 63 wins, but also laid the foundation for tilts at even loftier targets with Mugen and Galaxy Patch.

Mugen (Karis Teetan) is the first leg of a Group 3 double for Pierre Ng (Pic – HKJC)

Trailing 63-62 at the start of the meeting, Ng surged back into the championship lead when Greenwich landed the first section of the Class 4 Diamond Handicap under Andrea Atzeni before rising talents Mugen and Galaxy Patch crowned a glorious afternoon for the young handler.

“The plan for June, there’s four Group 3’s – lucky to get three of them and unlucky not to get four,” Ng, 40, said.

“We’re happy enough. The stable planned for that and hopefully we can head on to the last day. Good luck to both of us (Ng and Lui) and hopefully we both get more winners to enjoy.”

Mugen (115lb) was ridden patiently by Karis Teetan, settling last before charging through the centre of the field in the straight to down leader and triple Gr1 winner California Spangle (135lb) in 1m 21.77s on a track drenched pre-race by heavy rain. Flying Ace (116lb) was third, a further length away.

Ng hopes Mugen can graduate to elite class next preparation.

“Hopefully he’ll be a very good sprinter next year, either 1200 or 1400m. The owners really wanted to bring a horse that can travel and this horse might be the one for them,” he said.

“We might think of Japan – the Gr1 Sprinters Stakes which is a 1200m race. Let’s see over summer. If there’s not many options, we’ll have a crack and if there’s options here, we’ll stay here.”

Teetan revealed Mugen – who started the season in Class 3 – initially struggled with the kickback created by the pre-race downpour.

“I don’t think he (Mugen) was too happy with the kickback because with the showers we had made it a bit sandy behind, so I was a bit worried about him but then as soon as we hit the first turn, he got really comfortable and the place slacked up a little bit,” Teetan said.

“I just chose to guide my way through. Of course, I was hoping for a split but I know this horse has got a beautiful turn of foot and with that weight on his back, I knew he could do it. He kept quickening up nicely towards the end.”

Jerry Chau dominated the undercard with a treble, scoring on Young Brilliant for Dennis Yip in the Class 4 Topaz Handicap and Benno Yung’s Top Peak in the second section of the Class 4 Diamond Handicap and James Tak in the Class 3 Sapphire Handicap (1200m).

Chau was impressed with Top Peak’s development.

“At the beginning of the season, he was a bit immature and difficult to settle,” Chau said. “Now, he’s getting better and this race was perfect for him. He travelled well and at the 600 metres, he felt great – he’s got a big stride – and he did a very good job.

“I think he will improve again next season.”

Atzeni and Vincent Ho both slotted doubles.

Vincent Ho – double on the meeting (Pic – HKJC)

Atzeni clinched a brace with Awesome Fluke’s tough win in the Class 3 Lapis Lazuli Handicap (2000m) for Ricky Yiu. Winner of the Gr2 W.A.T.C. Derby in 2023 when he raced as Awesome John in Australia, the four-year-old raced outside leader Oriental Smoke before forging clear.

Ho partnered Galaxy Patch to a brilliant win after piloting Joy Of Spring to victory in the Emerald Handicap, delivering Caspar Fownes’ 50th win of the season.

Manfred Man and Keith Yeung struck with Yuen Long Elite in the Class 4 Ruby Handicap (1200m). Having only his second start, the three-year-old surged along the fence to deny My Wish in the last stride.

Talents Ambition notched his first Hong Kong win for Mark Newnham and Harry Bentley in the Class 3 Spessartine Garnet Handicap, earning a PP Bonus of HK$1.5 million. Unbeaten in two Australian starts when known as Burling, the three-year-old made a sustained run from the tail of the field to win comfortably.

Dennis Yip’s Young Brilliant returned to form with victory in the Class 4 Topaz Handicap (1650m, dirt) for Jerry Chau before Rubylot closed the meeting in superb fashion by charging from well back to win the Class 3 Amethyst Handicap (1400m) under Zac Purton.

Trainer David Hayes indicated the three-year-old would be set for next season’s Hong Kong Classic Mile.

  • Hong Kong horse racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 26 June.

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