Having already soared through the grades in a short period of time, Tuchel returned in style at Sha Tin for a stirring win in the Class 2 Yuen Long Handicap (1400m) under Zac Purton.
A prolific winner with four wins from eight starts, Tuchel – trained by John Size – made his Class 2 debut a winning one after enduring a tough, three-wide passage from gate 14 before extending to score by half a length over fellow four-year-old Galaxy Witness.
“I knew he had that ability but whether he was going to be able to produce that today, that was the question, he did it the tough way so that was a good effort,” Purton said.
Eligible for the 2023 Four-Year-Old Classic Series, Tuchel – sired by Redwood – is now expected to boast a rating high enough to contest the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) – should connections opt to send him there on 29 January.
“He won well. It was a difficult day to win off a bad gate and he did it in good style.
“I don't like making decisions after a race but I'll have a think about it overnight and we'll work out what we're going to do. He's a racehorse and there's nothing stopping him going around, so we'll think about it,” Size said.
Tuchel was expected to last run in October over this distance in Class 3, however, he was found to be lame and subsequently scratched.
“It was a very good effort, he had a setback with the injury, he drew the outside gate and I wasn't able to get in, I had to cop my medicine and just try to keep him nice and balanced and in a rhythm.
“He just enjoyed being back to the races, his attitude behind the gates, during the run – he was happy to be back and when he had to dig deep, he waited for me to ask him and he went and he didn't change his leg either, it was a very big effort after such a long time off,” Purton said.
Purton has three wins aboard Tuchel now but will instead partner Packing Treadmill in the first leg of the three-race HK$48 million series.
“He (Tuchel) deserves his place for sure,” Purton said.
The win was the second of a double in tandem for Purton and Size after Fast Buck surged clear to claim the first section of the Class 4 Nam Sang Wai Handicap (1400m).
Ricky Yiu has also confirmed that Voyage Bubble will head to the Hong Kong Classic Mile after his talented youngster brushed aside distance queries with a smart victory in the Class 3 Ping Shan Handicap (1600m) this afternoon under Derek Leung.
“Classic Mile next, he should be rated 81 or 82 now. He should be competitive, front-running horses always have more of an advantage than the back-markers.
“First up over a mile and when I bought him, it was expected that he would get a mile as he has a big, long stride and is a free-running type,” Yiu said.
Voyage Bubble broke cleanly from barrier 10 this afternoon but was made to work throughout after Hava Nageela pressed forward to apply pressure.
“We had an outside draw so we had to use a bit and go along but he still did the job – it was a tough win in a tough race,” Leung said.
Voyage Bubble now has three wins from eight starts over 1200m, 1400m and 1600m.
“We'll go step by step, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets 2000 (metres) but a mile and 1800 (metres) first. It all depends on how quick you go,” Yiu said.
Badel's back in business
Alexis Badel scored a first win back from injury since November this afternoon as an inspired piece of initiative from the Frenchman saw the Dennis Yip-trained Fighting Star hold on to capture the Class 5 Hung Shui Kiu Handicap (1200m).
“I'm very happy, it took a bit of time but I'm happy after three meetings, I think it is already a good effort. Last Sunday (8 January) I was just coming back from injury, obviously I needed some competition and races to get going.
“Last Wednesday (11 January) I was already much better and today I feel great. I'm grateful that I was able to pick up my first win for 2023,” Badel said.
Lyle Hewitson and Chris So combined with Not Usual Star as the Zoustar gelding nailed an unlikely win at odds of 67/1 in the Class 3 Tai Tong Handicap (1200m).
“I think Chris (So) deserves all of the credit. When this horse came to him he had a lot of issues and was completely off with an injury but he gave the horse time and put a lot of work into him,” Hewitson said.
The Class 3 Pok Oi Cup Handicap (1000m) went the way of We Are Hero for Hugh Bowman and trainer Manfred Man.
The win was Bowman's 15th this term and second aboard the Australian-bred after the pair's victory two runs ago – also down the straight at Sha Tin.
“It was no surprise, he's really found his niche over the 1000 metres. His win two starts ago, albeit in Class 4 was pretty authoritative. He was unlucky the other day, he came here today and got a beautiful run in transit and ran accordingly,” Bowman said.
Caspar Fownes' patience was rewarded as Daring Pursuit nailed a tidy victory under Vincent Ho in the first section of the Class 4 Lam Tei Handicap (1200m).
“He was a bit unlucky in his first start and the team took their time with him, they didn't rush him and we trialled him well. He's still a very big baby, he didn't want to come out in the straight but when I pulled him out he had a nice turn of foot again. There's plenty to improve – he's a nice, decent horse,” Ho said.
The Shooting To Win gelding copped interference last October on debut to finish an untested 11th.
Jamie Richards moved to 10 wins this season after Asian One broke through under Silvestre de Sousa in the Class 5 Kam Tin Handicap (1400m), giving Richards a third win from the last three fixtures.
Angus Chung combined with Tony Cruz when D Star staved off a late challenge from Joyful Genius to land the second section of the Class 4 Nam Sang Wai Handicap (1400m).
After finishing a weakening eighth on debut in December, Fun Together surprised at odds of +14200 with victory in the second section of the Class 4 Lam Tei Handicap (1200m) under Jerry Chau for trainer Benno Yung.