Lucky looking to strike again in New Year Cup
When you saddle almost a hundred winners in your first season and a half then you have to be more than just lucky, so it's fitting that Hong Kong's most progressive handler Frankie Lor is aiming Morethanlucky for Thursday’s Chinese New Year Cup, live on Sky Sports Racing at 8.05.
Lor notched his first Class 1 success when Dundonnell won this last year and bids to mark the Year of the Pig by landing the same £260,000 prize in front of a massive holiday crowd with a horse who has showcased his ability to improve new recruits in terrific style.
Rated just 53 after seven unplaced efforts when he joined Lor in 2017, Morethanlucky has won five times since and lines up off 103 against five rivals for a race won in the past by HK stars like Good Ba Ba and Glorious Days.
“Some horses don’t acclimatise to Hong Kong in their first season so I was lucky to get him,” Lor said.
“I was surprised to see such a small field but Morethanlucky is still in very good form. I think he’s got a good chance with the same jockey as last time so let’s hope we can win another Cup race.”
The jockey Lor refers to is Alexis Badel, who rode Morethanlucky for the first time in a G3 on January 1st.
Conte takes the step up to G3 company in his powerful stride to land the Chinese Club Challenge Cup. John Size's gelding gradually asserts over the gallant Morethanlucky, giving Joao Moreira a treble and taking his own record to seven wins from nine starts. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/JoPwJTlzuR
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 1, 2019
Morethanlucky recorded a career-best that day, battling on to chase home high-class Conte, and Badel was delighted with the way he applied himself both there and during a smooth recent trial.
"It seems he is still in great shape and Frankie has done such a good job with him," said Badel.
"Frankie gave me my first Group winner in Hong Kong when Simply Brilliant won the January Cup so it would be a great to start Chinese New Year to have another big win for him.”
Enter the Dragons as Millard goes on the attack
South African handler Tony Millard is attacking the second half of the Chinese New Year card with enough dragons to fill a series of Game Of Thrones and all rate a mention in one way or another.
Sparkling Dragon lines up with fair claims in the 7.35, while Glorious Dragon was rated 101 when known as Stephensons Rocket for Ed Walker and has trialled well ahead of his debut in the finale at 9.50.
However, Prance Dragon looks the most interesting member of Millard's dragon trio when he bids to make up for a luckless Happy Valley run in the 8.40.
Grant van Niekerk grabs a double and Danny Shum makes it 3 on the night as Star Of Joy runs down Powermax to take R7: a deserved first win at start 21. #HKracing #HappyWednesday pic.twitter.com/08M6bUlDz6
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 16, 2019
Prance Dragon was backed as if if improvement was expected on his debut for Millard and ran a highly encouraging race, missing the break badly and doing very well to finish a close seventh after finding little room in the straight.
Stall 2 this time looks perfect and the fact that Silvestre de Sousa is aboard for the first time is another plus as he bids to open his HK account at the fifth attempt.
Purton the key as Tianchi lands Monster bets
The racing section of the South China Morning Post has a neat little feature called 'Where There's Smoke' dedicated to highlighting horses who come in for substantial support in Hong Kong's huge Tote pools.
Not of all of them win, of course, but heavy late support can prove highly significant and Tianchi Monster was the subject of a major late plunge from over 3-1 down to 2.4 before scoring under Zac Purton last weekend.
Tianchi lands a Monster gamble! Relentless late support forces Tianchi Monster into 2.4 for R9 and @zpurton delivers Chris So's gelding with a perfectly-timed challenge to secure his second Hong Kong success. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/6DiZugbOeQ
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 2, 2019
Chris So's gelding isn't rated high enough to earn a Derby place yet - and Purton wouldn't be available if he was - but he has a fair turn of foot and there's no doubt the Aussie gets on extremely well with him.
Meanwhile, one of the most intriguing Derby prospects around is in trial action at Sha Tin on Friday morning.
Waikuku showed plenty for John Oxx last summer and is thriving for John Size judged on his latest handicap success. This latest trial won't reveal anything about whether he will stay 2000m but, with G1 winners Beat The Clock and Glorious Forever in the same heat, it should prove informative, all the same.
Rugged runner Bean scores again in basement grade
From market money to prize money and one of the most striking examples of how HK horses rack up the dollars compared to British counterparts.
By any measure, Sweet Bean is an ordinary old plugger. He's spent well over four years in the basement Class 5 grade for Caspar Fownes, never getting higher than a rating of 40 and dipping to 20 at one point.
But Sweet Bean is rugged and, when he gets a strong pace, he knows how to win.
His latest success at Sha Tin last Saturday was his eighth from 84 starts. Those eight wins, added to fifteen places, have netted his owner around £500,000. And, as Fownes chuckles: "He'll lick his bowl, shout for more and be ready to go again next week!"