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Senor Toba too strong for Group 3 Centenary Vase foes

February 7, 2023 at 4:08:20 AM

Senor Toba landed a plucky victory in this afternoon’s (Sunday, 5 February) HK$3.9 million G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin under Hugh Bowman for trainer Caspar Fownes.

Senor Toba landed a plucky victory in this afternoon’s (Sunday, 5 February) HK$3.9 million G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin under Hugh Bowman for trainer Caspar Fownes.

Sealing consecutive wins in the race for Fownes after Zebrowski’s victory in 2022, Senor Toba – stepping out over a less than optimum distance – charged to a three-quarter length triumph over Running Glory and Ka Ying Star in 1m 48.37s.

“It was a really strong performance, it’s probably not the most suitable distance for him, but it was run at a really nice and even pace which I thought it was going to be as that’s Money Catcher’s style,” Bowman said.

Money Catcher fired through to take up the lead, while Ka Ying Star sat second behind him with Senor Toba stalking the pair. Bowman clicked up the grey in the home straight to hit the front with 150m left to play.

Senor Toba was assigned 133lb, while Running Glory carried 116lb into second place with Ka Ying Star allotted 131lb. Senor Toba is now a two-time Group 3 winner in Hong Kong, having landed last season’s G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m).

“He showed us in his trial last week that he was going to give us a nice run today. Obviously it’s definitely on the sharp side – the 1800 metres – but it’s nice when these types of horses can pull a race off like that under handicap conditions.

“The tempo was good and we knew he was going to run the trip out strong and always, the last part of the race is his best part, the 1800 (metres) is just when he’s starting to come into his own,” Fownes said.

Senor Toba will now make the trip to Doha, Qatar on Thursday, 9 February to contest the QAT G1 H.H. The Amir Trophy (2400m) at Al Rayyan on 18 February, when jockey Joao Moreira will reunite with the grey. The Douglas Whyte-trained Russian Emperor is also expected to make the trek abroad for the same race.

“Joao Moreira will ride the horse (Senor Toba). I’m happy to have Joao on – he’s had good success with the horse and I didn’t think the race, even if Hugh (Bowman) came there, with the flight back he’s going to miss the racing in Hong Kong.

“I didn’t think it would work but going forward, if the horse is here in Hong Kong then there’s a good chance Hugh will be on,” Fownes said.

Senor Toba previously raced in Australia, finishing second in the 2021 G1 Queensland Derby (2400m) before import. Following his run in Qatar, Fownes is plotting the five-year-old towards the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2400m) at Meydan in Dubai on 25 March.

“His fitness is there already, we don’t need to do much with him. He’ll have a couple of nice and quiet days here before he flies out. Most importantly is that he travels well and arrives in good condition,” Fownes said.

Senor Toba had worn a visor all season, however, Fownes opted to remove it for this afternoon’s race, leaving only a tongue tie on the Toronado gelding.

“In the early days he just needed a bit of focus, he needed a bit of help adjusting to Hong Kong and now I feel he’s maturing into the horse that I think he’s going to be.

“I have always said for a while that I believe he’s a Group 1 horse and he’s going to get there, he’s going to win some good races going forward that’s for sure. He’s a horse that’s still developing so we have some good times ahead of us,” Fownes said.

Fownes remains unperturbed about the prospect of Senor Toba racing on firm surfaces in the Middle East.

“I think he’s quite adaptable, obviously on a nice and wet surface he’ll have an even bigger advantage but it’s a nice, firm surface out there (today) and he’s taken to it well. He’s shown us that he’s a very versatile horse – we’re going to have a lot of fun with him,” Fownes said.

Earlier on the card, Ernest Feeling kicked off Richard Gibson’s day in perfect fashion with a fast-finishing victory under Antoine Hamelin to grab the Class 5 Lung Yat Handicap (1400m).

“He’s been quite unlucky and he should have won his race a while ago,” Gibson said.

While Wellington was denied by Lucky Sweynesse in the HK$12 million G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m), Gibson had the considerable consolation of a double after BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) entrant Happy Together claimed the Class 3 Wu King Handicap (1600m) under Alexis Badel – along with a HK$1 million PP Bonus.

David Hall is hopeful Perfetto, winner of the Class 4 On Ting Handicap (1600m) under Zac Purton, can continue to make strong headway after today’s impressive victory.

“He’s always shown potential, he’s taken his time and he’s been a bit fragile – he’s not a big strong fellow – and the longer he’s been in Hong Kong, the better he’s got. It was time to step him up in distance and he did the job,” Hall said.

Manfred Man celebrated his licence extension to train in the 2023/24 season with a double after the Centenary Sprint Cup success of Lucky Sweynesse and We Are Hero’s triumph in the Po Tin Handicap (1000m) under a clever Hugh Bowman ride.

“He’s in very good form. I was confident he could win but not that easily,” Man said.

Jamie Richards combined with jockey Silvestre de Sousa to land the Class 4 Sam Shing Handicap (1400m) with Sixth Generation in a victory for patience.

“He’s been consistent without winning and today he was able to get the job done,” Richards said. “The owners have been patient and the horse did a good job.”

Happy Fat Cat made it three wins in six starts after leading throughout to clinch the Class 4 Yan Oi Tong Cup Handicap (1200m) under Angus Chung for Pierre Ng.

Danny Shum believes Supreme Lucky will continue to progress after an emphatic victory in the first section of the Class 4 Tai Hing Handicap (1200m) under Matthew Poon.

“Physically, he is very strong but mentally he is still developing,” Shum said. “I think he can be competitive in Class 3, but he needs to improve mentally.”

Douglas Whyte and Lyle Hewitson teamed successfully for the ninth time this season when the talented Dragon’s Luck made it three wins from four starts in the Class 3 Yau Oi Handicap (1200m).

By Sooboog, the Australian-bred staved off a late challenged from Mighty Stride to savour a three-quarter length success for connections.

Hong Kong racing continues this Wednesday (8 February) at Happy Valley when the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge comes to a close.

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