Alexis Badel delivers atop Cheerful Days in the feature. Photo by HKJC.

Cheerful Days snares Chinese New Year Cup for Lui, Badel

HJKC Staff

HKJC Staff Member

04/02/2022

By Leo Schlink, for the HKJC.

 

Cheerful Days’ emergence as one of Hong Kong’s most consistent performers elevated sharply at Sha Tin on Thursday (3 February) when the under-rated gelding provided Francis Lui and Alexis Badel with Class 1 Chinese New Year Cup Handicap (1400m) triumph.

Stereotyped as a Happy Valley 1650m specialist after four of his first five wins were posted at the City Circuit, Cheerful Days (113lb) upstaged more accomplished rivals Californiadeepshot (123lb) and Lucky Express (131lb) to log his fifth victory from his past six starts.

Given a copybook ride by Badel, the 86-rater drove hard late to clinch his most important success so far and to join Hong Kong Classic Mile winner, the unbeaten Romantic Warrior, as the only horses to win five races in Hong Kong this season.

“Great win from the horse, we knew he had improved so much. He’s been very consistent in Happy Valley and we came back to a shorter trip from where he’s been winning as well, so today was a great challenge,” Badel said.

“Bottom weight helped the horse and he fought really hard through the line. It was a solid win. He’s a nice horse. I don’t see any reason why he will not keep improving.”

 

 

Lui will next target the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge Finale at Happy Valley on 23 February, when the Smart Missile gelding will return to his most successful course and distance in search of a share of the HK$1 million bounty on offer in the lucrative series.

Currently sitting in second place with 45 points behind Fa Fa (60), Cheerful Days would earn a further 15 points with a fifth 1650m win on 23 February to potentially tie the series.

Lui was taken aback by the five-year-old’s latest achievement on Thursday.

“I thought he was good in Happy Valley because he kept winning there. Now, he can handle Sha Tin again – I’m surprised. Now we’ll focus on Happy Valley at the end of the month (DBS x Manulife Million Challenge Finale),” he said.

Badel doubled his haul immediately when John Size’s Country Boy landed the second section of the Class 4 Prosperity Handicap (1400m) as Cordyceps Six continued his startling rise with emphatic success in the Class 3 Good Fortune Handicap (1000m) for Richard Gibson and Blake Shinn.

The victory was the son of Star Turn’s fourth over the five-furlong straight course.

“You’ve got to remember he’s only three-years-old and I thought it was a very impressive performance today. We expected him to win and I thought he won with style,” Gibson said.

“He’s only three and he can only get better with age. He’s in really good nick and he’s a pleasure to train.”

 

John Size in familiar territory.
John Size in familiar territory.

 

Winner of 11 trainers’ titles, Size vaulted into the lead for the 2021/22 championship with a treble which included Beauty Fit’s runaway success in the first section of the Class 3 Kung Hei Handicap (1400m) for Joao Moreira.

 

 

“He was impressive,” Moreira said of Beauty Fit, winner now of three races in Hong Kong after prevailing twice in Australia when named Barocha.

Running Glory (Joao Moreira) sealed Size’s treble, giving the Australian a 44-42 lead over Frankie Lor after 42 of 88 scheduled meetings.

Entered for the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) at Sha Tin on 20 March, Running Glory overcame barrier 12 to provide Moreira with a three-timer.

“He had to make a wide run on him but the tempo of the race was good enough for him to do that and he had plenty of cover on the circle. Coming down the side, he was comfortable,” Size said.

“He’s a nice sort of horse – he’s just a little bit small, but his heart’s in the right place. He’s a determined racehorse, as you saw today.”

Caspar Fownes-trained Galaxy Witness gave Moreira the second leg of his three-timer, striding away with the Class 4 Kut Cheong Handicap (1200m) to remain unbeaten after two starts.

“Galaxy Witness is doing what we expect him to do. He’s still very green, he’s still doing a lot of things wrong but, apparently, he’s got a lot of ability. He won with a lot of authority,” Moreira said.

 

 

David Hall’s talented Flying Ace remained unbeaten after three starts with victory in the Class 3 Great Profits Handicap (1200m) under Matthew Poon.

“He’s had three starts for three wins so, how high he gets, we’ll just wait and see and what distance he can run is probably another question as well – whether we can increase him up to 1400m-1600m?” Hall said.

“The stallion’s (Swiss Ace) horses can run 1600m, no problem. So, it’s exciting that we’ve got some options – we’ve been to Happy Valley, Sha Tin and it looks as if we can increase his distance. It seems he’s got some more to give.”

Poon completed a race-to-race double when Danny Shum’s Charity Go claimed the Class 2 Fat Choi Handicap (1800m).

Manfred Man had the honour of sharing the first winner in the Year of the Tiger with Derek Leung, who piloted Good Beauty to success in the Class 5 Yue Yee Handicap (1200m).

“He dropped in class, he drew barrier one, so what can you expect?” Man laughed after posting the stable’s 16th victory of the season.

Maximize Heart became the latest winning Hong Kong International Sale graduate by delivering in the first section of the Class 4 Prosperity Handicap (1400m) for Dennis Yip and Vagner Borges.

Tony Millard combined with familiar ally Karis Teetan to win the Class 4 Red Packet Handicap (2000m) with Super Hong Kong.

“He’s very fit and he’s done a good job,” Millard said.

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Sunday (6 February).

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