Hong Kong stars salute Smullen brilliance
Pat Smullen made many friends on his visits to Sha Tin and Happy Valley so it was no surprise to see star names paying tribute at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Richard Gibson wore a black tie as a mark of respect and, having won the opener with All You Know, the winner of 15 global Group 1 contests said: "It’s very important the Hong Kong community recognise Pat's brilliance as a jockey and his brilliance as a man. I was very lucky that he rode for me here so my thoughts are with his family.”
Douglas Whyte and Neil Callan had many a battle with Smullen down the years and both men paid tribute via Twitter. Whyte said he was "proud to have been a friend," while Callan described his old sparring partner as a "champion, legend and inspiration."
I have not felt this sad in a very long time ! Sleep well my good friend. There is too many words to describe how good a man u are, you will never be forgotten. 🙌🏼💚🏇🇮🇪 #Pat #Champion #Legend #inspiration pic.twitter.com/idAo3huEXx
— Neil Callan (@neilcallan78) September 16, 2020
All You Know's rider Karis Teetan added: "Racing has lost a great man. It's so sad for all the racing people around the world and shows that these days you have to smile every day and be good to everybody in the way Pat did."
Derby fifth back on duty in fiery finale
It's sobering to think that three years ago this weekend Smullen was in full flow driving subsequent Derby fifth Hazapour to a gutsy defeat of Hunting Horn in a Galway maiden.
Now named Amazing One Plus, the Shamardal gelding ran a screamer to finish second at 200-1 on his Hong Kong debut back in May but he's had lameness issues since and, for all that he has Zac Purton aboard in Sunday's nightcap over a mile at 10.45, it might pay to look elsewhere.
Joao Moreira bags a first-day treble as Excellent Proposal digs deep for a tough, first-up win! 3⃣ 🍾 #SeasonOpener #HKracing pic.twitter.com/OQOFt114xj
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) September 6, 2020
Excellent Proposal is the obvious alternative after bursting out of a pocket to score over 7f two weeks ago and Joao Moreira described the traffic he encountered that day as "something only good horses can overcome."
A 6lb hike looks very fair but John Size's gelding isn't guaranteed smooth sailing from stall 14 and the consistent, easy-going Assimilate might just prove the value call in a hot Class 2.
Joao prepares for long journey after Valley treble
Four meetings is hardly a robust sample but the early signs are ominous as Hong Kong's top jockeys start to flex.
There's nothing new in seeing Purton and Moreira to the fore but Teetan's flying start means that the big three - tied on eight apiece after the Mauritian's midweek double - have won 24 of the 36 races run so far.
The flip side of that coin is that the other 17 riders have just 12 wins between them and Moreira is already eyeing what could be another sustained title battle after riding his first Happy Valley treble for almost a year on Wednesday.
"It was predictable that we would be close at this stage," he said. "Karis is riding really well and Zac and I are going to be snapping at each other's heels all season - it's going to be a long journey!"
Slimline Dreamer steps up in distance
Amazing One Plus isn't the only notable European import on show in Sunday's feature events. Moreira bids to improve his fine run for Caspar Fownes when The Rock - known as Vasiliev when he won at Windsor for Clive Cox - lines up as a leading chance in the 9.35am.
Temple Of Heaven won three from four for Richard Hannon in 2019 but faces a tough test against the exciting Winning Dreamer in the 10.10. Frankie Lor has some big targets in mind for his unbeaten four-year-old, who has "lost some baby fat" over the summer and heads into his reappearance almost 40lb lighter than for his impressive July success.
Early signs suggest that Winning Dreamer is likely to go off at odds on but stall 12 isn't ideal for his 6f debut and it's also worth noting that his rider Vincent Ho hinted that he still tends to be more nervous than ideal earlier this week.
Bravo back after bold trial efforts
That sort of immaturity can be an issue when a youngster races round a bend for the first time and this field contains a couple of interesting rivals. Chicken Dance might need the race after a long break caused by tendon problems and trainer Paul O'Sullivan admits that his All-Weather trials "have been disgraceful."
However, Chicken Dance looked a fine prospect with two turf wins when last seen. The fact that Purton is at the controls is clearly a plus, while Moreira partners the muscular Ping Hai Bravo, who looks poised to progress this season and should be well prepped after a couple of promising morning trials.