Unperturbed by a triple-figure run of outs, Vagner Borges sealed his return to the winners' list with a clinical display aboard Sight Success to land the HK$3.9 million Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) for John Size at Sha Tin on Sunday (8 January).
Winless in 101 attempts since partnering Owners' Star to victory at Sha Tin on 1 October, Borges refused to submit to negativity as he battled for an increasingly elusive breakthrough victory and predictably jubilated in Sight Success' triumph.
“It's been quite tough the last couple of months without riding winners, but I keep working hard and I am hoping to ride more winners before the end of the season,” the Brazilian said after Sight Success (133lb) speared down the grandstand fence to defeat Rewarding Together (117lb) by a neck – with a length further back to third-place dead-heaters, Sky Field (135lb) and Duke Wai (128lb).
Posting his first win since March, 2022, Sight Success franked his second placing behind Wellington in last month's G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), stopping the clock at 55.96s after giving Borges seamless carriage along the outside fence from barrier 14.
“I'm very happy. I want to thank Mr Size very much. The horse has been very consistent and he got the job done,” Borges said. “He's a good horse – a simple horse to ride – he just needed to be in the right race like he was and he was able to win the race. He has a lot of ability and I believe the horse will improve even more. I believe he can go higher.”
“The draw was very important, there was a lot of speed in the race and we were able to sit handy and then when I asked the horse, he responded really well.”
Size indicated Sight Success might be given a tilt at the Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) at Sha Tin on 5 February.
“He's always thereabouts no matter what race he's running in, he runs a good race and puts himself in the finish. It's just a matter of how his condition holds up,” the 11-time Hong Kong champion trainer said.
The Four-Year-Old Classic Series took further shape ahead of the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on 29 January with the wins of Drombeg Banner and Sinba, as Hugh Bowman took riding honours with a treble, while 10lb-claiming apprentice Angus Chung featured with a brace.
Jamie Richards is hopeful Sinba can qualify for the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile after eye-catching victory under Karis Teetan in the Class 3 Tsz Wan Shan Handicap (1400m) to earn a HK$1 million PP Bonus.
“He's a nice progressive horse who's got a fair bit of upside, so hopefully he can continue to improve,” Richards said, contemplating a tilt at the Four-Year-Old Classic Series. “His rating (71) is still a little bit low, so we'll just have to see.”
A three-time winner in Ireland, Drombeg Banner also emerged as a Hong Kong Classic Mile contender for Pierre Ng after front-running success under Chung in the Class 3 Lung Fu Shan Handicap (1600m), collecting a HK$1 million PP Bonus in the process.
“His rating will be around 74 or 75 and I think he will be high enough to get in there, especially with winning form. I'm looking forward to seeing how far he can get,” Ng said.
Riding with supreme confidence, Bowman sealed a treble when Frankie Lor's Sword Point also earned a HK$1 million PP Bonus with an impressive win in the Class 3 Keung Shan Handicap (1800m) to charge into Four-Year-Old Classic Series contention.
Formerly trained in Australia by Chris Waller, Sword Point finished third in the G2 Tulloch Stakes (1850m) before joining Frankie Lor's stable. Bowman said James McDonald's advice to step the American Pharoah gelding up in trip after a last-start 12th over 1400m was crucial.
“He's a nice horse, he needed that extra distance – he couldn't show that (ability) over the shorter trip but some advice from James McDonald after last start to go up in distance worked,” Bowman said. “It's a very sensible horse and he's got a bright future.”
Lor and Chung teamed with Sakewin to secure individual doubles with success in the Class 3 Tin Wan Shan Handicap (1200m).
Ruan Maia celebrated the most important win of his Hong Kong career when Francis Lui's Chancheng Prince proved too strong in the Class 1 Caroline Hill Handicap (1650m, dirt).
“Yes, this is the first time I've won a Class 1 here and I'm very happy to keep the ride on this beautiful horse,” the Brazilian said. “Thanks so much for Francis and his assistant and all the stable.”
A son of Carpe Diem, Chancheng Prince has now produced four of his seven wins over the 1650m dirt course at Sha Tin.
Silvestre de Sousa registered his 25th victory of the campaign when Manfred Man's Compassion Super prevailed in the Class 4 Po Leung Kuk Cup Handicap (1200m) before Tamra Blitz was given a superb rails-hugging ride by Hugh Bowman to win the Class 4 Cheung Shan Handicap (1400m).
“He's been a bit unlucky but the main reason he won today is because Hugh Bowman gave him a 10 out of 10 ride,” Whyte said. “The horse is only small, but he's got a huge heart.”
Whyte sealed a race-to-race double when Beauty Champ broke through for his first Hong Kong triumph in the Class 4 Diamond Hill Handicap (1650m, dirt) under Harry Bentley.
“He's turning the corner mentally,” Whyte said. “He can be a nightmare in the morning and he's still fractious, but Harry gave him a really good ride and he got going before the turn at a crucial time – and that was the winning move.”
A daring mid-race move delivered Vincent Ho's eighth victory in 18 rides when Caspar Fownes-trained Daily Beauty stubbornly prevailed in the Class 5 Beacon Hill Handicap (1650m, dirt) before Nicholson Returns gave David Hall and Bowman their fifth victory in tandem, charging from the rear of the field to land the Class 4 Bennet's Hill Handicap (1800m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley with the running of the HK$3.9 million G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) on Wednesday night (11 January).