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Vincent Ho notches comeback double, Francis Lui grabs crucial three-timer

April 15, 2024 at 6:45:31 AM

Excited ahead of a FWD Champions Day reunion with champion Golden Sixty on 28 April, Vincent Ho gained vital confidence and fitness with his first double in almost three months at Sha Tin on Sunday (14 April).

Excited ahead of a FWD Champions Day reunion with champion Golden Sixty on 28 April, Vincent Ho gained vital confidence and fitness with his first double in almost three months at Sha Tin on Sunday (14 April).

Sidelined after a fall on 24 January, Ho returned to race riding at Happy Valley on Wednesday (10 April) and, following a couple of luckless rides, was elated after successfully joining forces with long-time ally Francis Lui aboard Baby Crystal in the Class 3 Dongsinan Handicap (1000m) and Holy Lake in the Class 3 Dongcheng District Handicap (1600m).

Determined to rebuild the momentum that delivered 25 wins before he was injured, Ho’s focus immediately shifted to Golden Sixty’s pursuit of a record-extending fourth HK$22 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) victory in two weeks.

“It’s great to be back. It’s been three months and I’ve slowly been building my confidence back up,” Ho, a four-time winner of the Tony Cruz Award as Hong Kong’s leading home-grown jockey, said.

“I’ll keep going and keep building up for Champions Day. That is the big day. Hopefully everything goes well up to then and I’m just excited to be back. I’ve got a nice horse (Golden Sixty) to be back on.

“There’s a few good horses from Hong Kong and Japan (in the FWD Champions Mile), so it will be exciting. I’m looking forward to it and we’ll be ready by then.

“Thanks to Mr Lui and Mr Fownes for keeping me on horses with good chances. I’ve been trying to win since I came back (at Happy Valley on 10 April), I need to thank Mr Lui and Mr Fownes for their support – it’s not easy, but I’m getting my confidence back.

“I’ve just got to keep riding better and better.”

Lui also scored with King Miles in the Class 4 Beijing Clubhouse Anniversary Cup Handicap (1200m) to commence his treble and reduce Pierre Ng’s lead in the 2023/24 Hong Kong trainers’ championship to five – 55 to 50 – and fan hopes of a first title for the veteran horseman.

“I was looking for some winners and I will keep trying my best,” Lui said.

Jockey Hugh Bowman was impressed by King Miles – a son of Exceed And Excel – who broke through for his first win at his third start.

“I like the horse – I’ve had a bit to do with him. He disappointed me last start, he had the perfect gate but he just ran away with me and finished accordingly.

“The pace was pretty solid today and there was a bit of drama as well (with riderless Lucky Quality) but he withstood all that and I think you’ll see a better horse when he gets over further but he’s not ready for that yet. He’s still learning his trade and today was a step in the right direction.”

Armed with fresh talent, Jimmy Ting enjoyed his best day of the season with a double through Thunder Blink and Lo Pan Spirit.

Thunder Blink claimed the first Griffin race of the season when the Ribchester colt finished powerfully under Jerry Chau to claim the Wangfujing Plate (1000m), clocking 56.42s to down Toronado two-year-old La Forza by a length.

“I think the horse needs longer distances, so to get this win, I’m very happy,” Ting said. “The fast pace suited him. Later I think 1400m will be more suitable for him. Hopefully he can win one more time (in Griffin races).”

Ting then combined with Harry Bentley and Charm Spirit three-year-old Lo Pan Spirit, to clinch the Class 4 Hong Kong Lions Cup Handicap (1200m).

David Hayes continued a strong season with a brace through Metro Warrior and Lucky Encounter. Derek Leung drove Metro Warrior to victory in the Class 4 Dongzhimen Handicap (1000m). A seven-year-old, Metro Warrior has scored all four of his Hong Kong wins down Sha Tin’s straight 1000m course.

Lucky Encounter earned a HK$1 million PPG Bonus for an all-the-way triumph in the Class 2 Jinbao Street Handicap (1200m) under Andrea Atzeni, who completed a superb weekend after riding Circle Of Fire to victory in the G1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Royal Randwick in Australia on Saturday (13 April).

Hayes has 37 wins for the campaign, his best haul since the dual champion trainer returned to Hong Kong for the 2020/21 season.

Cody Mo-trained Urban Triumph broke through at his 10th attempt, winning the Class 5 Dengshikou Handicap (1200m) for Derek Leung before Brazen Beau three-year-old Winning Gold’s easy victory in the second section of the Class 4 Chaoyangmen Handicap (1400m) for Chris So and Keagan De Melo.

So made it two wins for the afternoon when Owners’ Praise triumphed under Lyle Hewitson in the first section of the Class 4 Chaoyangmen Handicap (1400m).

After seven top-three finishes this season, Beauty Fit finally got his reward with victory in the Class 3 Jianguomen Handicap (1400m) under Antoine Hamelin for trainer John Size.

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (17 April).

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