Extending a brilliant campaign, Vincent Ho forged deeper into uncharted territory with a treble at Sha Tin on Saturday to raise hopes of reaching a century of winners in a single season for the first time in his career.
Ho, 33, boosted his 2022/23 haul to 83 wins, and, with 10 meetings left this season, he trails only Zac Purton (150 wins) and remains on track to reach 100 winners after success today on Dream Winner, All Is Good and Secret Vision.
Having already easily surpassed his previous best return of 67 victories in 2019/20, Ho teamed with three different trainers – Frankie Lor (Dream Winner), Francis Lui (All Is Good) and Danny Shum (Secret Vision) – to take riding honours.
The most spectacular of the trio was Dream Winner, who maintained his unbeaten record with a with a devastating victory to extend a startling emergence, clocking 55.52s in landing the Class 3 Tuen Mun Public Riding School Handicap.
By Exosphere, the three-year-old sat off the speed before sweeping past pace-setter Super Axiom to win by two and a half lengths, prompting Lor to describe the gelding as “the best three-year-old I’ve had in my stable.”
“I think he still has a lot of improvement. I hope so,” Lor said. “He’s still a big baby. In the mornings, sometimes when he walks up to the track, he stops and looks around – his work rider has to ask him to go again.”
Ho echoed Lor’s optimism over Dream Winner.
“He’s still very green, still a baby,” Ho said. “At the moment, it’s just his quality that we’re seeing. Once he learns more, he’ll be better. He’s just still very raw.”
Ho also piloted All Is Good to victory in the Class 4 Lei Yue Mun Park Handicap (1400m). Winless in his first 14 starts, All Is Good made it two in a row for Lui, who snared a brace, before prevailing aboard Secret Vision in the Class 3 Lung Mun Road Handicap (1600m) after a weather delay.
“The track is fine after the rain,” Ho said. “It’s nice, of course, to get a treble.”
Ho’s spree came as Purton notched his 150th winner of the season when Michael Chang’s Lady’s Choice landed the Class 4 Hong Kong Riding For The Disabled Association Cup Handicap (1200m), reaching the 150-win mark for only the second time in his career.
The Australian partnered 168 winners in 2018/19 and is bidding to overtake Joao Moreira’s record of 170 for the most wins in a season. Moreira rode at least 150 winners in a single campaign on three separate occasions.
“It’s a nice milestone,” Purton said on reaching 150. “It’s been an okay season, just got to keep going and hopefully get some more wins.”
Chang revealed Purton had advised him to drop Lady’s Choice in trip after a last-start fifth.
“Today, the jockey gave him a perfect ride,” Chang said. “After the last run, he (Purton) suggested to me that 1400m is a little too far for the horse. Even today, he got out in the straight and let him sprint the last 400m and the jockey said that he just got there.”
Harry Bentley celebrated his 31st birthday in style with a short-head victory atop Lui-trained Master Of Luck in the Class 5 Pok Fu Lam Public Riding School Handicap (1400m), pipping Alex Lai and Travel Glory in the last stride.
“I don’t think I’ve ridden a winner on my birthday before,” Bentley smiled. “I wasn’t sure on the line if we had won – it was really a 50-50 – and I went over the line thinking it could have gone either way. Obviously, I’m glad it went my way this time.
“The horse is a big horse and perhaps he just wanders around in front and first-time blinkers today just helped get his head down where it mattered.”
Karis Teetan passed the 50-win mark for the seventh time in 10 seasons when Pierre Ng’s Turquoise Alpha won the Class 4 Lei Yue Public Riding School Handicap (1800m, dirt). The Mauritian has now accomplished the feat across six successive seasons.
Size bookended the meeting with the wins of Erimo and Bourbonaire. Erimo (135lb) slotted his fourth win of the season with a courageous victory in the Class 3 Chai Wan Road (1800m, dirt) under Alexis Badel, before Bourbonaire revelled in the rain-affected conditions to triumph in the Class 2 Pok Fu Lam Road Handicap (1800m) under another Frenchman, Antoine Hamelin.
Amazing Rocky ended a frustrating string of near-misses over the straight course with victory in the Class 4 Ho Sheung Heung Road Handicap (1000m) for Benno Yung and Ellis Wong.
Contesting his 13th race over the speed course, Amazing Rocky had previously accumulated five seconds, two thirds and a fourth but proved too strong today in 56.40s.
Yung celebrated a double when Pulsar Strider led throughout to clinch the Class 3 Pok Fu Lam Country Park Handicap (1200m) under Lyle Hewitson. In posting his second successive win, the Foxwedge gelding claimed a HK$1 million PP Bonus.
- Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday.