Building on stable star Lucky Sweynesse's brilliant Group 2 Sprint Cup (1200m) triumph last Sunday, Manfred Man maintained impressive momentum when Encountered claimed victory at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Posting his third win over the course and distance this season, Encountered revelled in his return to the city circuit after finishing ninth behind Voyage Bubble in the Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on March 19 to give Man his 29th win of the campaign.
“He's an expert at the Valley mile. Now, he shows us that he loves one mile at Happy Valley, the track is a little bit softer, which I think is more suitable for him. He looks a nice horse – he's won in Class 2, so he's already nice,” Man said.
Encountered was given a shot at Hong Kong Derby glory after stringing together a compelling string of Happy Valley performances, but he failed to deliver at Sha Tin finishing 12th in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on February 26 before contesting the Derby.
Derek Leung agreed with Man's assessment regarding Encountered's preference for the city circuit.
“It was good. He's always very honest, especially at Happy Valley. Tonight, we had a good draw and after the Derby, he was freshened up and the blinkers were taken off. He was so smooth in the race tonight and in the end, he kept fighting,” he said.
“The track here is soft and seems to suit European horses.”
The Irish-bred picked up a PP Bonus of HK$1 million for his connections on top of a HK$1.653 million cheque for finishing in first place this evening.
Douglas Whyte claimed training honours tonight with a double after Xponential's gritty success in the Class 3 Shelley Handicap (1200m) under Lyle Hewitson after Whyte had earlier combined with Harry Bentley aboard Happy Trio in the second section of the Class 4 Glenealy Handicap (1200m) despite covering ground.
“It was a bit frustrating because I was just stuck wider than I expected to be. I had a horse on my inside which I couldn't get ahead of,” Bentley said. “Credit to the horse, he had a wide trip and dug deep and ‘Dougy' has done a great job with him. It's nice to get on the scoresheet again, the more the merrier.”
Richard Gibson believes One For All will continue to thrive after the No Nay Never gelding showed searing speed from barrier nine to post successive wins with success in the first section of the Class 4 Glenealy Handicap (1200m) under Hewitson.
“He's a good horse. I bought this horse as a yearling in Australia. He's by a very good stallion from Europe and, to be honest, I was surprised he didn't do better at the beginning of his career but he's just got bigger and stronger and I expect him to improve,” Gibson said.
Danny Shum's decision to apply blinkers on talented Eighteen Palms produced an immediate response when the gelding snared the Class 4 On Lan Handicap (1650m) under Vincent Ho.
“He's a nice horse. He's been very green, so I put the blinkers on him to help him a bit and, luckily tonight, at the 400m Vincent Ho just helped him to concentrate and he could win,” Shum said after slotting his 37th win for the term.
Natural Storm (126lb) notched his third win at the course and distance by claiming the Class 3 Cochrane Handicap (2200m) under a patient ride by Karis Teetan. Trained by Ricky Yiu, the Pins gelding improved his overall record to five wins from 34 starts.
Matching Hewitson's feat, Teetan also clinched a double when Rattan Kingdom powered to victory in the Class 3 Sports Club Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup Handicap (1650m) for Jamie Richards before Tony Cruz's Atomic Energy made it two in a row, finishing strongly under Angus Chung to land the Class 4 Graham Handicap (1000m).
Matthew Chadwick's precision ride on Chris So-trained Faithful Trinity proved decisive in the Class 5 D'Aguilar Handicap (1650m) after the veteran gelding sauntered through the first 400m in 29.08s. Having first raced in Hong Kong after import from Italy as a Group 2 winner, the German-bred gelding scored twice over this course in 2020.