Sixty's Golden run continues
Day one of a new decade at Sha Tin was marked by notable successes for emerging talent, with HK's newest trainer and rider claiming centre stage along with a handful of highly promising young horses.
Golden Sixty was the headline act in the G3 feature over 1400m, uncoiling his trademark turn of foot and bounding clear of the bang-in-form Fat Turtle to make it seven wins from eight starts with the promise of even better to come.
Hong Kong Classic Mile?
Golden Sixty makes it 4⃣ consecutive wins this season, cruising to victory in the G3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup for Vincent Ho & Francis Lui. 🙌 #HKracing pic.twitter.com/5XclSmG82i
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 1, 2020
Francis Lui's gelding faces a new test when he bids for the Classic Mile on January 27th but an extra 200m seems unlikely to trouble him and his new mark of 112 is equal to or higher than seven of the last ten winners carried into the race.
Lui has another strong improver in More Than This, now rated 97 after three strong wins under Karis Teetan this season.
Teetan has struck up a fine relationship with the former Richard Fahey gelding but is set to give way to Ryan Moore for the Classic Mile, while Vincent Ho's presence aboard Golden Sixty leaves Zac Purton free to partner impressive Happy Valley debut winnerPrivate Secretary.
Piccone strikes early as Charity finally comes good
Tony Piccone is far from the most high profile rider to arrive in HK in recent years but he did what several bigger names failed to do by partnering a winner on his first day as Charity Go stormed from last to first for a 24-1 success in the nightcap.
Well done @piccone_tony!
The Frenchman 🇫🇷 secures his first Hong Kong 🇭🇰 win at just his fourth ride, claiming the finale at Sha Tin aboard Charity Go. 🍾 #HKracing pic.twitter.com/XE5Q6HiyXc
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 1, 2020
The chestnut (formerly known as Fortune's Pearl) had failed to reproduce his smart form for Andrew Balding but responded to the Frenchman's distinctive style to gain his first win at the fourteenth attempt.
Piccone also had two thirds on the first day of a two-month contract and reports suggest he will partner Private Secretary in a valuable Class 2 next weekend. "It's very important on my first day," smiled Piccone. "Before today I liked HK - now I love it!"
Numbers game puts Whyte on the fast track
The Durban Demon's seamless transition from riding to training continued with Super Wealthy's success in the Chinese Banyan Handicap and several key metrics suggest something significant is building at Olympic Stables sited just off Sha Tin's home turn.
Now fourth in the trainers' table on 19 winners despite having had fewer runners (135) than any of his 21 training rivals, Whyte has saddled ten winners at a strike rate of 20 per cent over the last ten meetings with a 42 per cent place rate during the same period.
Those are very impressive numbers in a handicap culture and the fact that 25 of his 58 horses in work are still unraced in HK suggests that Whyte has every chance of breaking into the top three and staying there with well over half the season still to run.
Croissant a french fancy with Badel booked
Sunday's Sha Tin finale should provide more Classic clues as the Broadwood Handicap at 9am features several useful imports from Britain and Down Under seeking to strike early for new connections.
Irish Guineas third Decrypt is bound to be popular with Zac Purton up after a promising HK debut for Frankie Lor, while Beauty Legacy's smart Aussie form has earned him a lofty opening mark of 92 on his first run for John Size.
Size has another live player at the bottom of the weights in the shape of Beauty Rush but this is wide open and it would come as no surprise to see Mr Croissant go close at a fair price on his debut over 1400m.
Chris So's gelding has been running very well for some while, winning a strong Class 2 over 1200m which worked out a treat then finishing fourth after a slightly messy run last month.
In-form Frenchman Alexis Badel takes over for the first time and stall 6 looks an added plus in a race that features several front runners.
Patience pays for 146-1 McMunigal
Patience is a virtue and those who kept faith with McMunigalwere finally rewarded on the first day of a new year.
The five-year-old finished second in G3 company for Ger Lyons gelding as a juvenile but was 0-14 in HK going into Wednesday's Yew Handicap having dropped from a mark of 80 to 31.
Market confidence was non existent but the Epaulette gelding battled home willingly to give Jack Wong his first winner since October - at 146-1.