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Frankie Lor, Alexis Badel take G3 January Cup with Happy Together

January 16, 2024 at 3:09:50 AM

Frankie Lor’s dominance of Happy Valley’s only Group race continued at the city circuit on Wednesday night (10 January) when Happy Together extended his startling progress with an emphatic win the HK$4.2 million G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) under a facile Alexis Badel ride.

Frankie Lor’s dominance of Happy Valley’s only Group race continued at the city circuit on Wednesday night (10 January) when Happy Together extended his startling progress with an emphatic win the HK$4.2 million G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) under a facile Alexis Badel ride.

Given a perfect run three pairs back on the fence, Happy Together provided Lor with his third January Cup triumph in six years after the previous success of Simply Brilliant (2019) – who was also partnered by Badel – and Money Catcher (2023).

Happy Together comfortably (115lb) denied La City Blanche (115lb) by three-quarters of a length, with the same margin to Helene Feeling (117lb) in 1m 48.29s.

Improving his record to four wins from five starts since joining Lor’s stable from Richard Gibson, who retired as a Hong Kong trainer at the end of last season, Happy Together has risen this campaign from Class 3 company and a rating of 73 to a Group 3 victor.

Badel said: “He’s a great horse, he’s got a lot of personality – I really like him. He’s got a great turn of foot, he’s got ability. I had a great barrier (three), I just tried to put him asleep on the rail. The pace was even and comfortable for everyone, I thought.

“I just had a look at the last corner to find a way out. I managed to get my way around them and he won brilliantly.”

Reflecting on the bitter-sweet recollections of Simply Brilliant’s triumph in 2019 which delivered the Frenchman’s first Hong Kong Group score, Badel said: “A lot of memories, I remember it just like it was yesterday. I broke my wrist after the line, I fell off so there were a lot of ups and downs but Hong Kong is always full of surprises and I’m glad that I won this race again for him (Lor).”

Lor said: “I like this race – I’ve won it three times. He’s (Happy Together) been great and I think he can still improve. Alexis knows this horse and what it takes for him to perform.”

Ellis Wong made an auspicious start to his Happy Valley career by slotting a win at the city circuit with only his second ride, triumphing aboard Lyrical Motion for Caspar Fownes in the first section of the Class 4 Great George Handicap (1200m).

“It feels very special to have my first winner in Happy Valley,” Wong, 23, said. “The horse drew a good barrier (five) and we just kept the position behind the leaders and he came away strong to win very easily.

“This is very meaningful for me to get this win in Happy Valley (for Caspar Fownes) because he is the ‘King of Happy Valley’.”

Able to claim 10lb, Wong had ridden eight winners from 87 mounts at Sha Tin before being permitted to compete at Happy Valley and his display for Fownes delighted the four-time champion trainer.

“He (Wong) gave him a beautiful ride. He didn’t feel any pressure. It’s good and it’s a sign that he’s got a cool head,” Fownes said. “He’s got a few things we can work on but he’s getting there, so he’ll gain a lot of confidence from this.”

Ricky Yiu notched a treble to boost his tally for the season to 20 with the victories of Prime Minister, Mega Bonus and Simply Maverick.

Luke Ferraris piloted Mega Bonus to an all-the-way win in the second section of the Class 4 Great George Handicap (1200m) after Yiu opened his account with Simply Maverick in the second section of the Class 4 Kingston Handicap (1650m). Ridden positively by Vincent Ho, the 1.3 favourite cruised to a two-length margin to snare his second win over the course and distance in three starts.

Yiu capped a great night the Prime Minister’s triumph in the Class 3 Cleveland Handicap (1800m) under Matthew Poon as Lyle Hewitson rode his first victory this season for Tony Cruz when Red Hare King claimed the first section of the Class 4 Kingston Handicap (1650m).

“I’ve never had many rides for him until recently and it was actually this horse on (LONGINES) IJC (International Jockeys’ Championship) night that he’s started to support me,” Hewitson said. “It’s nice to hit the board for him – I’m very grateful.”

Francis Lui teamed with Andrea Atzeni in a breakthrough win with Modest Gentleman, who comfortably landed the Class 5 Paterson Handicap (1000m) to post his first Hong Kong victory at his 20th attempt before Hugh Bowman and Danny Shum combined successfully for the first time this campaign with Copartner Ambition in the Class 3 Causeway Handicap (1200m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Saturday (13 January).

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