Erasing the memories of a recent challenging spell, Matthew Poon posted his second treble of the season to take riding honours at Sha Tin on Sunday (21 May) as John Size moved closer to a record 12th Hong Kong trainers` championship with a double.
Poon entered the meeting on a 38-ride winless streak but immediately halted the bleak sequence aboard Size-trained Speedy Fortune, who swept to a three-length victory in the day`s opening event, the Class 4 Wheelchair Fencing Handicap (1200m).
Making the most of his opportunities, 29-year-old Poon also found the winners` circle with Pakistan Friend, who led all the way to make it two wins in a row with success in the Class 4 Lawn Bowls Handicap (1800m) for Chris So before Ka Ying Spirit sealed Poon`s treble with a tenacious win in the Class 3 Tenpin Bowling Handicap (1000m).
Winless since Reve Parisien triumphed on 23 April, Poon was asked by Shum to visit a temple before today`s meeting as he sought to end the barren streak.
“I asked (Matthew) to go to the temple to pray for some good luck. He went on Saturday. Maybe the God helped him,” Shum said as Poon advanced to his first treble since 5 October, 2022 at Happy Valley.
Taking his tally to 19 wins for the season, Poon conceded the wait before his Sunday spree had been frustrating.
“It`s been a long time. In the second half of the season, I have a better connection with the horses. It`s great to get this result, but I still have to keep working hard,” he said. It hasn`t been easy because I`ve been a bit quiet recently, so it`s nice to get some winners.
“I`m grateful for the support from the trainers and owners and hopefully there`s more to come. All the horses ran well today and did a good job.”
Size-trained Tuchel enhanced his growing reputation by shouldering 134lb to post a stirring win in Class 2 Para Sports Coach Handicap (1600m), accelerating sharply to overhaul Flaming Rabbit (122lb) to claim a HK$1 million PPG Bonus under Zac Purton.
“It was a very good effort,” Purton said. “They made him chase a long way from home with the big weight and I thought I had Flaming Rabbit easily at the 200m but, with a 100m to go, I was gassed and it was just his class and heart that got him through.”
Settling fifth, Tuchel angled into the clear on straightening for home and immediately loomed before Flaming Rabbit kicked defiantly, drawing a courageous second effort from the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) runner-up, who took his record to five wins from 13 starts.
Vincent Ho predicted a bright future for Dream Winner after Frankie Lor`s three-year-old blitzed his opposition in the Class 4 Hong Kong Sports Association For The Physically Disabled 50th Anniversary Cup Handicap (1000m), clocking a blistering 55.14s despite being eased down in a five-and-a-quarter length triumph.
Bought for NZD$26,000 (approx. HK$128,000) out of the 2021 Karaka Sales, the Exosphere gelding earned HK$615,600 in a commanding debut performance which followed a good 1000m trial at Sha Tin on 9 May.
“He`s a nice horse, a big boy. He`s got a good future. He`s got a big stride and he was able to maintain the same speed,” Ho said, revealing he was aware the race was well within his keeping before he allowed Dream Winner to cruise the last 50 metres to the line.
“I could see those horses were way behind and he had done a good job, so he could just do that (ease down). He`s a nice horse.”
Underlining the quality of the performance, Dream Winner jumped from barrier one on the least favoured side of the straight course.
“I wasn`t expecting that. If he`d drawn the outside, I would have thought he`d got a really good chance, but he drew gate one for his first start, so I thought it was going to be a little bit difficult, although racing on the C course may have made it easier,” Lor said.
Ho took his tally of wins for the season to 76 when Francis Lui`s Lucky Gold proved too strong off a strong pace to clinch the Class 4 Table Tennis Handicap (1400m) before David Hayes-trained Lucky Encounter continued an impressive first season with a courageous win in the Class 3 Badminton Handicap (1200m) under Karis Teetan.
Keith Yeung enjoyed his first victory since suffering injuries in an accident when Find My Love caused an upset in the Class 3 Para Sports Volunteer Handicap (1400m) for Manfred Man, while Bulb Prince broke through in the Class 5 Development Focus Para Sports Handicap (1600m) for Dennis Yip as part of a Purton double.
Luke Ferraris coaxed the best of David Hall-trained Joyful Genius to land the Class 4 Boccia Handicap (1600m), prompting Hall to predict the five-year-old might now be ready to flourish.
“His mindset for a long time was wanting to do too much, so he`s been a bit of a quirky horse,” Hall said. “He`s just now adjusting to being a normal Hong Kong horse, he`s relaxing better and obviously with the blinkers on at 1600 metres, he produced his best effort today. I think he could quite easily win again off that.”
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (24 May).