Narrowly denied a double on debut in Hong Kong, Michael Dee described his triumphant start at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (24 May) as a dream as he joined a select band of jockeys to ride a winner at their first attempt in the city.
In partnering David Hayes-trained Starry Night to victory in the Class 5 Cornflower Handicap (1000m), New Zealander Dee emulated the feats of, among others, Karis Teetan, Luke Currie, Shane Dye and Grant van Niekerk in riding a winner at their first Hong Kong attempt.
Having arrived in Hong Kong on Tuesday (23 May), Dee made the most of four opportunities – including a pick-up ride after Vincent Ho was stood down before the meeting because of illness – with a win and second (Sight Hero), third (M Unicorn) and fourth (Lean Hero) placings on a memorable initiation at one of the sport`s most unique tracks.
“It`s been extremely good. I think that`s certainly the dream start – to ride a winner on my first horse but unfortunately, I couldn`t get a second winner,” Dee said, lamenting Sight Hero`s effort to miss by a head after rattling home.
“Couldn`t ask for a better start. That`s what dreams are made of and I was hoping I would come here tonight and for it to be a successful one. Thank you to David Hayes and his team for having me on these horses tonight.
“I`ve obviously watched a lot of races here at Happy Valley. I just think you`ve got to be on your game quite a lot but still ride your race within reason and in a way, still let things unfold.”
Dee prevailed with a typically composed display aboard the previously winless Starry Night, much to the delight of his partner Mikaela Lawrence and Hayes, occupying a forward position just off the speed before driving the gelding to breakthrough success.
“Inside barrier draws help, he jumped really well and we were able to sit in a prominent position and he was strong effort, so it was a great effort by the horse,” Dee said.
Dee, 27, is the first jockey to post a winner at his first Hong Kong ride since Currie`s successful debut atop Miracle Victory – also for Hayes – at Sha Tin on 30 January, 2022.
London Luckystar continued a wonderful transformation by clinching the second section of the Class 4 Hyacinth Handicap (1650m) for Francis Lui and Lyle Hewitson. Winless in 30 starts across his first three seasons, London Luckystar has been a revelation this season since transferring to Lui, winning five of 10 starts and almost HK$3 million in prize money.
Now a seven-year-old, the Holy Roman Emperor gelding started the season on a rating of 24 and will climb to over 50 with his fifth success over the city circuit`s 1650m course.
Hewitson took his tally to 38 wins for the campaign when Jimmy Ting`s Magic Phoenix snared the Class 3 Snapdragon Handicap (1200m), denying charging Wonder Kit – who would have given Matthew Chadwick his 500th Hong Kong winner.
Chadwick`s dashing mid-race move on Fortune Triple resulted in victory for Me Tsui in the Class 5 Bellflower Handicap (2200m) as the first leg of a double for Tony Cruz Award winner Chadwick, whose vigour was decisive in Flaming Passion`s defiant victory in the first section of the Class 4 Jasmine Handicap (1200m) for Frankie Lor.
Caspar Fownes` decision to apply blinkers to Chrysos for the British import`s first start at Happy Valley after four unsuccessful Sha Tin attempts paid off with an all-the-way triumph in the first section of the Class 4 Hyacinth Handicap (1650m) under Harry Bentley.
Bentley picked up the ride as a replacement for Vincent Ho.
Seasons Wit`s slender win in the Class 3 French May Trophy Handicap (1000m) maintained Zac Purton`s hopes of eclipsing Joao Moreira`s record of 170 for the most wins in a single Hong Kong season.
Five-time Hong Kong champion Purton has 138 wins for the 2022/23 term and has 15 meetings left as he attempts to create history. Trained by Jamie Richards, three-year-old Seasons Wit claimed a HK$1 million PP Bonus for his first victory.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (28 May) with the HK$12 million G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m).