Pierre Ng holds a slim lead over Francis Lui. Photo by HKJC.

Pierre Ng, Francis Lui remain locked in dramatic battle for Hong Kong trainers’ title

HJKC Staff

HKJC Staff Member

11/07/2024

By Leo Schlink, for the HKJC

 

The 2023/24 Hong Kong trainers’ championship will be decided at Sunday’s (14 July) Season Finale after Pierre Ng and Francis Lui failed to land winners at the final Happy Valley meeting of the campaign on Wednesday night (10 July).

Ng leads by one win – 67 to 66 – after his eight runners tonight yielded one third and two fourths, while Lui logged two seconds, two thirds and a fourth from nine runners.

With 11 races at Sunday’s twilight fixture, both trainers have strong entries ahead of Thursday’s (11 July) declarations for Sha Tin. Lui was denied crucial victories with the runner-up performances of Matsu Victor and Yellowfin, while Ng’s best performer tonight was Winning Steps.

 

Danny Shum won the most races by a trainer at Happy Valley this season.
Danny Shum won the most races by a trainer at Happy Valley this season.

 

As Ng’s tussle with Lui continued, Danny Shum topped the Happy Valley trainer standings with 33 wins at the city circuit this season – two more than Caspar Fownes (31).

“It’s not easy to do,” said Shum, who bolstered his Happy Valley haul with Brave Witness’ success in the Class 4 Turin Redsun Handicap (1650m). “To have 52 wins overall is not bad. I’m happy with that.”

It is the second time Shum has trained the most winners in a season at Happy Valley, while Zac Purton was acclaimed as the most successful jockey at the city circuit for the eighth time with 47 wins, 12 clear of Karis Teetan, who snared a double tonight.

The evening’s feature was won by Woodfire Bro, who made a successful Happy Valley debut by clinching the Class 2 Sun Jewellery Handicap (1650m) for Michael Chang under a calculating ride from Keith Yeung, who patiently talked the speed behind leaders Tomodachi Kokoroe and Yellowfin before accelerating along the fence to win impressively.

“He’s a lovely horse to ride. We had the perfect barrier (gate one) and the pace was just nice. Everything went smoothly and this horse really deserved to win,” Yeung said. “This horse has been beaten by some nice horses this season. I think he can still progress because he’s young.”

By Echoes Of Heaven, Woodfire Bro had won four races – all at Sha Tin – before tonight’s success. The gelding clocked 1m 37.90s to set a new 1650m course record at the city circuit, which was previously held by Tsar (1m 37.97s).

Douglas Whyte reached the 40-wine milestone with a double, striking with Goodmanship in the Class 5 Silver Grecian Handicap (1000m) under Teetan before Matthew Chadwick sealed a brace of his own aboard Lucky Planet in the second section of the Class 4 Let Me Fight Handicap (1200m).

A 13-time Hong Kong champion jockey, Whyte was delighted to post his 40th win of the season.

“I’ve tried to do that (reach 40 wins) year-in, year-out. I’ve had a bit of hard luck with seconds and a few bad draws. You can’t look back – you can’t turn those around – so I’m just glad it’s fallen into place now,” he said.

“He (Lucky Planet) has taken a long time for the penny drop. He’s been a victim of circumstances and he’s been very immature – both mentally and physically – and he’s been subject to false paces and bad draws, so he’s had a bit of bad luck.

“Anyway, he got his act together today. I think racing experience and gate one certainly helped him tonight.”

Chadwick said: “He (Lucky Planet) ran well last time at Sha Tin and we just thought the shorter straight would benefit him and he was able to kick clear and keep the break,” Chadwick said.

Chadwick also scored on Tony Cruz’s Ninja Derby in the Class 5 Super Oasis Handicap (1800m).

“He (Ninja Derby) had a lovely run, it was his distance, had a lovely gate and he did what he expected to do when he got clear,” Chadwick said.

Teetan sealed an early brace with Brave Witness’ victory before Antoine Hamelin scored aboard Ricky Yiu’s Giant Leap in the Class 4 Fast Most Furious Handicap (1200m).

Wearing blinkers for the first time, David Hall-trained Prince Of Porty landed the Class 4 Star Shine Handicap (1200m) for Hugh Bowman. Jumping to a prominent position from barrier one, the Wandjina gelding had to stave off a late challenge from Strive For Glory before posting his third win from 14 starts.

Cody Mo-trained Atomic Force triumphed in the Class 3 Lucky Patch Handicap (1000m) before Frankie Lor’s Flamingo Trillion closed out the Happy Valley season under Derek Leung, denying Romantic Laos by a nose in a gripping finish to the Class 3 Sweet Orange Handicap (1800m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (14 July) with the 2023/24 Season Finale.

 

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