Regency Legend stretched his perfect record to four wins with an impressive victory in the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin yesterday, Sunday, 1 September.
The victory meant that trainer Danny Shum not only made good on a promise but also bolstered his long-held assertion that participation in this year’s Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) should be within his rising stable star’s scope.
“That was real good, he’ll go to the Group 1 – he can!” Shum declared, adding that the four-year-old’s route to that 8 December feature has yet to be determined.
“He loves to race fresh so I’ll keep him fresh, I won’t run him too soon,” the handler said. “I’ll talk to the owner and talk to Zac (Purton) and we’ll see where we go next. He might have only one more run in November and then into the Group 1 in December. I just hope I can have Zac on board.”
The way Regency Legend swept clear of smart rivals to win the season’s opening day feature by an easy length and a half under the champion jockey will have put the sprint division’s leading players on alert.
“There’s no reason why he can’t go forward and progress to the Group 1 in December because in his races he’s done nothing wrong,” Purton said. “The older horses are coming to the end of their tether a little bit, so it’s leaving the door open for a horse like him.
“It was a fairly shallow race in the sense that the older horses had heavy weights and there wasn’t really another young horse coming through, so he was well-rated and the race was always going to map well for him, he was going to be forward out of trouble.”
And that is how it played out in the seven-runner contest. Bottom-weight Styling City (115lb) led; Regency Legend (120lb) sat outside and then sprinted on by.
“After we went 50 metres it really was at his mercy, it was just a matter of him producing what he needed to,” Purton said.
Things could have turned out differently for Regency Legend, though, had Shum not taken a patient approach. The Pins gelding injured his left hind leg in March, which meant his season was curtailed with three unblemished wins on the board.
“The owner has given me a lot of support, he’s been patient,” Shum said. “The horse hurt his leg and that really made me worried for a while but I didn’t rush. I said give me time, and if we can keep him sound, he’ll definitely win the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup. So I made the promise half a year ago!
“It was easy. He’s a very good horse at 1200m, that’s his best distance.”
The Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine won the feature in 2010 before going on to win the 2011 Hong Kong Sprint, while today’s runner-up Seasons Bloom (132lb) went on to win the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) for Shum after his 2017 win.
Shum is noted for making a flying start to a season and, true to form, the experienced handler left the track with a double. His first win came in the first race, the Class 5 Mount Butler Handicap (1600m), and it was Purton in the plate again as Good Runners Way edged out the Joao Moreira ridden Regency Gem.
“I always fly high!” Shum said.