Duke Wai’s stunning consistency has earned Paul O’Sullivan’s flagbearer a tilt at the Group 3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m) in May after victory in the Class 1 Silvermine Bay Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin’s all-dirt meeting on Wednesday night (30 March).
Upstaging Kurpany and Majestic Star, who are both being aimed at the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin on 24 April, Duke Wai benefited from a stunning Matthew Chadwick ride to post his seventh win from 31 starts, boosting his prizemoney to HKD$12.7 million.
“He’s had limited opportunities on the dirt and he’s trialled well on the dirt on a number of occasions, but trials to race days can be a different thing, but he’s a wonderfully consistent horse and he just keeps sticking his head out – and it was a wonderful ride,” O’Sullivan beamed.
“Just not too sure where we go from here. The options are a little bit slim but there’s a Group 3 handicap coming up over 1200 metres (on 22 May) and that’s what he’ll be set for.”
Tucked safely away from the early speed battle between Highly Proactive and Kurpany, who finished last of nine starters, Duke Wai cut loose to overhaul the leaders before fending off Silver Fig and Keep You Warm.
Caspar Fownes will assess Kurpany on Thursday (31 March) before deciding whether to tackle the Group 2 Sprint Cup (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (3 April).
On a night of slick times, Hong Kong International Sale graduate Party Everyday smashed the 1800m course record by clocking 1m 46.46s in winning the Class 3 Kiu Tsui Handicap (1800m) for Tony Cruz and Joao Moreira.
Despite being four-wide, without cover, Party Everyday lowered Glorious Artist’s mark of 1m 46.68s, set in 2018.
Moreira slotted a double with success aboard Frankie Lor’s Like That in the Class 3 Pui O Handicap (1200m) to shave Zac Purton’s lead in the jockeys’ championship to two – 96-94 – while Lor trails John Size 61-59 in the trainers’ race.
Me Tsui took training honours with a double, courtesy of Masterwork and Happy Tango.
Masterwork broke through at his 12th start under Vincent Ho with success in the Class 5 Clear Water Bay Handicap (1200m) before Karis Teetan sealed Tsui’s brace in the second section of the Class 4 Hap Mun Bay Handicap (1200m).
Jimmy Ting’s Mission Bravo made it two in a row on the dirt and maintained Luke Ferraris’ 100 percent record atop the Smart Missile gelding with victory in the Class 4 Cheung Sha Handicap (1800m).
“It was a good ride by Luke and the horse likes the dirt,” Ting said. “We’ll keep him on the dirt and see if he can do it again.”
Underlining the authority of the performance, Mission Bravo set a new class record of 1m 47.45s.
Veteran Crown Avenue posted his eighth victory at his 78th start, sprinting hard late under Blake Shinn to claim the Class 5 Cafeteria Handicap (1650m) and leaving trainer Dennis Yip with a dilemma.
“He’s nine-years-old and he’s had eight wins already, so let’s see the handicap. I will talk to the owners and see what they think because early in the season we decided if this horse gets one win, we will retire him.
“So, in this moment, I’ve yet to talk to the owners, so we’ll see.”
Now in his sixth season in Hong Kong, the Hard Spun gelding – who won as a three-year-old as Prince Of Spin for David Hayes and Tom Dabernig at Pakenham, Australia in 2016 – boosted his prizemoney to just shy of HKD$7 million.
Yip registered a race-to-race double when Flying Dragon corrected a rare anomaly in Purton’s 2021/22 performance by presenting the championship-leading jockey with his first win of the term on the dirt with victory in the second section of the Class 4 Hap Mun Bay Handicap (1200m).
Winless in 32 previous rides on the dirt this campaign, Purton was at his tactical peak with a crafty ride on the Per Incanto gelding.
“Zac rode the horse very well,” Yip said. “There was a lot of speed on and Zac held the inside and didn’t let them cross them because, if they had, they would have come back onto him when they got tired.”