Perfect Match showed he’s a four-year-old going places with a smart victory in the Class 2 Lukfook Jewellery Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin yesterday (Sunday, 15 December).
The Not A Single Doubt gelding bagged a fifth career win from 10 starts to push his rating (83 for this test) into Four-Year-Old Classic Series territory. But, with the first leg of three – the Hong Kong Classic Mile – just six weeks away, trainer Danny Shum was quick to play down those prospects.
“The mile could be a problem,” he said of the 2.2 favourite. “If you look at him, he’s a 1400-metre horse, the pedigree says the mile even might be an issue and if we push him to the 1600 (metres) and he runs no good, it wouldn’t be ideal. But I’ll talk to the jockeys and the owner and then we’ll make a plan what to do.
“His last run was good, he’d been off for a few months and had no cover in the run but he still finished third so it was an amazing effort actually and he’s shown that today.
“There’s no talk of the Derby for this horse,” he added.
There was plenty of BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) talk about third-placed Decrypt leading into the race though, and his classic prospects were not diminished by defeat. The Hong Kong debutant emerged as a threat to Perfect Match with 300m to race but faded on his run as Joyful Trinity swept by to press the winner and take second spot.
“It was encouraging,” jockey Zac Purton said of Decrypt, this year’s Group 1 Irish 2,000 Guineas third now in the care of Frankie Lor.
“I thought he did a good job. He travelled a bit keenly through the early-mid stages but he came out to win and he just ran out of gas at the end.”
Lor intends to race the grey again on 5 January before stepping into the Hong Kong Classic Mile on 27 January.
Perfect Match scored by three quarters of a length and a length over the place-getters, stopping the clock at 1m 20.79s to give jockey Alexis Badel some silverware.
“It’s very good to win a trophy race,” the Frenchman said. “I like Danny, he’s been great with me so far and he always gives me good opportunities, so it’s good to win for him.
“This was my best ride today and he gave me a good feeling. He’s obviously a good horse, he’s very smart and he listened to what I was communicating to him. He’s happy whatever you want him to do and he responds well.”
Badel was of a similar mind to Shum regarding the Australian-bred’s ability to stretch out over a mile and beyond.
“I suppose the pace was fast enough and he might stay a mile but he’s shown me good speed at seven furlongs today.”
Caspar Fownes was delighted with the effort of the once high-class veteran Joyful Trinity in pressing the winner with a trademark deep-closing charge.
The seven-year-old was talented enough in his pomp to make the frame in Group 1 company and bagged a Group 3 win too, but has not tasted victory since October 2016.
“It’s wonderful to see him do that,” Fownes said. “It’s a challenge to bring these horses back – in the past he’s had a suspensory problem, a heart irregularity, and then he’s gone and put in a massive run like that at his age.
“Hopefully he can snag one after that run but we’ll see how he is race by race and if everything’s smooth he’s going to be competitive at 1400 to a mile.”
Matthew Poon was the out-of-luck rider on Joyful Trinity but made amends one race later when driving Quadruple Double home for trainer David Hall in the Lukfook Jewellery PT Collection Handicap (1200m). The four-year-old gelding has hit a rich vein of form, winning three of his most recent four starts.