Jubilant after a mid-week treble, Vincent Ho believes Gold Gold Baby can continue a stunning rise into higher grades after Francis Lui's rejuvenated sprinter notched his fourth victory in five starts by clinching the Class 3 Hip Wo Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (4 January).
Taking his tally of wins for the season to 37, Ho made it seven wins from his last 17 rides after Gold Gold Baby (118lb) forged along the fence to score the most important victory of his career after starting the season as a 38-rater in Class 5.
Having risen 25 points after three victories in Class 5 and Class 4, the Warrior's Reward gelding further repaid Lui's faith leaving Ho to predict even more improvement from the five-year-old, who is the first horse to win four races in Hong Kong this season.
Previously troubled by breathing issues, Gold Gold Baby twice underwent surgery throat surgery in 2021 and initially struggled for form on his return.
“He's pretty consistent now. We know how to win with him and we know how we should ride him. The vets did a really good job to help his breathing,” Ho said. “He's very easy to ride now, a lovely horse.
“We had a light weight today and he produced a good turn of foot. It's harder with more weight but as long as he's healthy, he should be able to improve.”
Lamenting a pair of minor placings, Ho said his three-timer “could have been five”, having also partnered Legion Of Merit and All Beauty to victory before Gold Gold Baby settled in his customary reward slot before surging late to down Beauty Charge and Golden Link.
Ho extended his excellent recent run with a patient display on Chris So's Legion Of Merit to land the Class 4 Tsun Yip Handicap (1650m) before guiding Frankie Lor's All Beauty to victory in the Class 3 Hoi Yuen Handicap (1650m).
“I think I will keep the horse at Happy Valley over this distance,” Lor said. “I think it's suitable for him.”
Pierre Ng added further lustre to an impressive debut season as a trainer, notching his 20th win of the campaign when Faribault triumphed in the Class 4 Hung To Handicap (1000m) under Silvestre de Sousa.
Trailing only Frankie Lor (26), Tony Cruz (25), John Size (23) and Francis Lui (23), Ng has bagged 12 wins at Sha Tin with the balance coming at Happy Valley. One of several horses inherited by Ng from Paul O'Sullivan, who retired at the end of last season, Faribault joined Ng's growing band of victors with a tenacious display on a card which featured a string of close finishes.
Caspar Fownes cut a relieved figure after Amazing News won the Class 5 Yue Man Handicap (1650m), after the British import had tumbled from 72 to 27 in the handicaps after 29 Hong Kong attempts yielded just four placings and a drop from Class 3 to the bottom of Class 5.
“That (win) seriously took a long time coming, a horse like this,” Fownes observed after the six-year-old, twice a winner in England in 2019 and 2020 broke through for his first Hong Kong victory.
“How he can get to this rating and not win a race is incredible, but I'm so happy. Hopefully now he's won his first race, he can start to understand that maybe he can win another race or two this season.”
Harry Bentley combined with in-form Jimmy Ting, fresh from a double at Sha Tin on Sunday, to land the Class 5 Wai Yip Handicap (1200m) as David Hall lauded Luke Ferraris' ride on Kung Fu Tea after victory in the second section of the Class 4 Tsun Yip Handicap (1650m), praising the young South African's display on the seven-year-old.
“Luke handled him really well, it was a really good ride,” Hall said of Kung Fu Tea, who added a maiden Happy Valley success to three victories at Sha Tin over 1400m.
Douglas Whyte attributed King Eccellente's victory in the second section of the Class 4 Mut Wah Handicap (1200m) to growing maturity after Karis Teetan drove the Exceed And Excel gelding to a head margin over Righteous Arion.
“He's been weak and immature and it's taken me a good year but, as the weights indicate, he's put on 17 pounds since his last race, but he's now just doing everything correctly at work and especially at the races and I'm just happy with the way the horse has mentally settled in,” Whyte said.
“I'm very happy because it's been two months without a winner, but I keep working and my head up and sometimes the right horse comes to your hand and this one ran well first start from a bad draw,” the Brazilian said.
“He ran nicely then, so I was 100% confident that he could win and so I'm so happy with this win.”
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (8 January) with the running of the Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m).