Danny Shum will plot a path towards the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on 10 December with Victor The Winner after the lightly-raced gelding toppled Lucky Sweynesse, the world`s highest-rated sprinter, in the Class 1 the HKSAR Chief Executive`s Cup Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (10 September).
Notching his sixth win over 1200m, Victor The Winner (115lb) led all the way and exploited a substantial weight advantage to account for Lucky Sweynesse (135lb) by two and a half lengths, with Adios (115lb) a further one and a quarter lengths back in 1m 09.87s on rain-affected ground.
Victor The Winner has long impressed Shum with his talent and, after rising from a rating to 52 to 106 before today`s triumph, the Toronado five-year-old now will be given the chance to validate the trainer`s opinion.
“I knew he was a good horse after his first trial, I said to the owner ‘Come to his first race, bring your wife, the horse will be hard to beat`,” Shum said before finishing the meeting with a three-timer and his sixth win in the opening-day feature.
“Victor The Winner will go to set weights now with his rating, so hopefully he can go to group races now. In December, the sprint race (LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint) is the aim. He`s a good horse. Today, with a light weight, a wet track and the pace - Karis held the pace fantastic - so he was able to win.”
Allowed to saunter unchallenged through the first 400m in 25.01s before gradually accelerating with sectionals of 23.46s and 21.40s, Victor The Winner`s jockey Karis Teetan executed Shum`s race plan to perfection as Lucky Sweynesse - still short of maximum fitness - struggled to bridge the gap under his weight.
“We studied the tempo. We wanted a very good jump and to get to the front. I think I won the race in the first 400m when he got his own way, and he was really comfortable. Into the straight, when I picked him up, he really gave me a kick,” Teetan said.
“With the weather playing up a bit lately, some horses have missed work, but we had two trials. I thought my horse, in his last trial, showed me he`d improved a lot since last season. After I saw the rain today, I thought it`s going to make it hard for (Lucky Sweynesse) with that weight and the way the track is. I thought we took our chance, and it worked out pretty well.
“I think he (Victor The Winner) is improving. I thought his last run was a really good run. Of course, he`s going to have to run with the big boys now, but I think he`s going to build his confidence, and he`s going to put his name out there and compete at that level.”
Lucky Sweynesse`s trainer Manfred Man was far from despondent in defeat.
“I said before the race he had only a chance and with the weight difference, the work we missed because of the typhoon and the heavy rain, it was always going to be hard to win. Also, I don`t think he handled the going with the big weight,” Man said.
Zac Purton, who finished the meeting with a treble aboard Danny Shum`s Champion Method and Supreme Lucky and Francis Lui`s All Is Good, was also upbeat in defeat.
“His (Lucky Sweynesse`s) run was really good. It`s not easy - he had one trial coming into this race, having to give 20lb away on a soft track and the poorest run of his career previously was on a soft track, so he had all that against him,” the six-time Hong Kong champion jockey said.
“Then the slow sectionals early, so it wasn`t his day today but I thought he ran very well.”
For the second season in a row, David Hall claimed the honour of saddling the campaign`s first winner with Dazzling Fellow, under Hugh Bowman, in the Class 5 Mount Parker Handicap (1600m). Hall struck in the corresponding race last term with This Is Charisma.
Dazzling Fellow clocked 1m 35.32s - slightly inside standard time for the trip - in a remarkable testament to Sha Tin`s draining qualities and the track staff`s maintenance systems after the course received 559.6mm in the seven days up until 9am today.
Bowman completed an early double aboard Frankie Lor-trained Ready To Win in the second section of the Yi Tung Shan Handicap (1200m) as Angus Chung and Dennis Yip combined with Super Winner, Jerry Chau and Pierre Ng joined the fray with I Give, Harry Bentley and Douglas Whyte teamed with Blue Marlin before Brenton Avdulla closed the meeting successfully aboard Tony Cruz-trained The Golden Scenery in the Class 2 Tai Mo Shan Handicap (1400m).
Hong Kong racing continues on Wednesday night (13 September) with the Happy Valley season-opening meeting.