Poon and Lui combine with Glorious Dragon to snare Centenary Vase Handicap

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Glorious Dragon

Glorious Dragon has avenged defeat in the 2020 Group 3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) by denying Exultant a third win in the staying feature while delivering Matthew Poon one of the most important triumphs of his career.

Beaten by Tony Cruz’s Exultant in the same race last year, Glorious Dragon swept past the reigning champion under Poon’s urgings to succeed by one and three quarter lengths with Furore a further neck away in third place.

The authority of the victory delighted trainer Francis Lui after the grey was narrowly defeated by Savvy Nine in the Group 3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) on 6 January.

“I am very happy to win this race because I targeted both of the last Group Three races for him,” Lui said.

“The last time he got a bad draw (10), I thought he would have finished much closer if he managed to get in where we wanted, this time he had a light weight and it all worked out.

“He has a few leg problems so we had to take it easy with him, early in the season I tried to work him but he wasn’t ready so we gave him more time, he is OK now.”

Lui will consider a tilt at the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on 21 February.

“We don’t have much choice with him now, we will think about the Gold Cup if he pulls up well.” Lui said.

Glorious Dragon
Glorious Dragon is a three-time winner from 16 starts.

Poon, 27, inherited the ride from Zac Purton on Glorious Dragon because the Teofilo gelding was allotted just 113lbs and was elated to add a third Group 3 in Hong Kong to those previously collected on Jolly Banner in the 2019 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy and the 2020 Premier Cup.

Purton finished second aboard Exultant.

“I’m pretty lucky I could jump on him,” Poon said of Glorious Dragon.

“Last time at Happy Valley, he ran good and he was even fitter today and I think I was getting on him at the right time.

“From the draw (2) today, he followed the favourite and we had the perfect run.

“I think he’s got some class and I hope he can challenge for a Group 1 or Group 2 this season.”

The win was Poon’s 13th for the season – and clearly the most significant.

“I feel extremely happy because this win is proof that I can handle it and I’m also able to ride at a light weight so I’m very thankful to Francis for giving me a nice ride,” he said.

“Francis has given me a lot of support this season and this horse definitely has a lot of class.”

Tony Cruz, fresh from a treble at Happy Valley on Wednesday, notched a double with Galaxy Emperor in the Class 5 Aldrich Bay Handicap (1400m) with Joao Moreira before prevailing again with Beauty Smile in the Class 2 Tathong Channel Handicap (1400m).

Formerly known as Justifier when trained in Ireland to Listed success in the El Gran Senor Stakes (1505m) by Ger Lyons, Beauty Smile was given a wonderful ride by Matthew Chadwick to collect a HK$1 million high achievement bonus for connections.

Chadwick sealed his third double of the season by partnering the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Casimiro to narrow victory in the Class 3 Siu Sai Wan Handicap (1600m) in the gelding’s third success for the 2020/21 term.

John Size was upbeat after heavily-backed Fantastic Way saluted for Joao Moreira in the Class 4 Shau Kei Wan Handicap (1200m).

“He’s still a bit young, he looked a bit young in the parade ring, just a little bit immature but he’s educated pretty well and hasn’t been too much trouble,” Size said of the Australian import.

“Plenty of good signs and the fact he’s a little bit immature is good for the future anyway. Maybe not quite tough enough to go to Class 3, but I’ll see.

“It makes it more interesting to get the young ones to the races and they can perform well and you can start to imagine they have a future.

“It’s gratifying.”

Moreira finished the meeting with a treble, also prevailing on Galaxy Emperor for Cruz before clinching the Class 2 Victoria Harbour Handicap (1200m) aboard Beauty Applause for Size.

Size’s double left him just two wins adrift – 37-39 – of Caspar Fownes in the trainers’ championship, while Moreira boosted his tally to 80, 25 ahead of reigning champion jockey Purton (55).

Chris So’s faith in Jerry Chau was vindicated when the apprentice guided Sunny Boy to victory in the Class 3 Tai Tam Bay Handicap (1200m) on the dirt.

“Jerry wanted the ride and he had the (7lb) claim and he rode the horse perfectly,” So said. “We wanted him to jump clean, to take a hold and then come with a sprint.

“It was a great ride and a great result.”

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