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Young Champion impresses with dazzling Sha Tin win

March 18, 2024 at 4:35:14 AM

Delivering on soaring expectation, Young Champion left an indelible impression on Karis Teetan as the Mauritian celebrated a treble at Sha Tin after piloting John Size’s exciting talent to victory in the Class 2 Sheung Yeung Shan Handicap (1400m) on Saturday (16 March).

Delivering on soaring expectation, Young Champion left an indelible impression on Karis Teetan as the Mauritian celebrated a treble at Sha Tin after piloting John Size’s exciting talent to victory in the Class 2 Sheung Yeung Shan Handicap (1400m) on Saturday (16 March).

Teetan, who partnered the Zoustar gelding for the first time, was clearly taken with the chestnut’s quality after he laid waste to a seasoned batch of gallopers while having only his third start in Hong Kong – and his first in Class 2.

“Wow. Amazing – this is when you know you ride for Mr Size,” Teetan beamed. “I need to thank Mr Size and (Hong Kong Jockey Club’s) The Racing Club for the opportunity to ride such a progressive horse like this one. It was just a pleasure.

“Today, from that draw (barrier nine), there was plenty of speed in this race and Mr Size told me ‘Be confident on this horse, he’s got the class, leave him where he’s comfortable and he will give you his best’.

“I must say he (Young Champion) felt really good – he’s still raw and you’re going to see a bright future with this horse, definitely.”

Teetan, whose elite Hong Kong achievements include BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) and G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) victories on champion middle-distance stayer Romantic Warrior, rode Young Champion precisely to Size’s instructions.

After settling the gelding in seventh place, Teetan built momentum entering the straight before easing Young Champion (116lb) into clear running. Striking the front near the 250m, the four-year-old was eased down to score by a length from Blue Marlin (118lb) and Lucky Encounter (117lb) in 1m 21.42s.

Covering his last 400m in 22.57s, Young Champion improved his Hong Kong record to two wins from three starts, having started his career as Sharlouk in Ireland, where he won a maiden and ran second in Listed company for Johnny Murtagh.

Size said: “He (Young Champion) ran very well. It looked like he was very comfortable a long way from home. There was never any doubt about how he was going to perform after he got halfway through the race. It was set up nicely for him, it was run to suit and he accepted it.

“He’s quite progressive. As you can see, he’s made the adaptation very quickly to Hong Kong and that’s what the better horses do, they adapt very fast.”

Earning a PP Bonus of HK$1.5 million for today’s performance, Young Champion took his Hong Kong earnings to HK$6.02 million.

Asked what level Young Champion might potentially reach, the 12-time Hong Kong champion trainer said: “We’ll find out soon enough.”

Young Champion’s blistering win was the clear highlight of Teetan’s three-timer, which also featured Sing Dragon and Solid Shalaa.

Mark Newnham-trained Sing Dragon earned a PP Bonus of HK$1.5 million with a debut win in the Class 3 Association of Hong Kong Racing Journalists Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m, dirt), while Solid Shalaa scored at his 16th Hong Kong start with a solid finish in the Class 4 Lai Pek Shan Handicap (1200m, dirt) for David Hayes.

“I think he was a Class 3 horse in Class 4, so I think he can win in Class 3. He just needed a little bit of luck and he got the luck today and a good ride by Karis,” Hayes said.

Tony Cruz’s decision to remove headgear from Ima Single Man paid off spectacularly when the six-year-old posted his first win in 440 days, landing the Class 3 Heung Yee Kuk Cup Handicap (1200m) under Angus Chung.

Formerly rated 98, Ima Single Man had slipped to 68 in the handicaps before today’s breakthrough and Chung’s adventurous move to lead all the way, coupled with Cruz’s gear alteration, was pivotal.

“I took off his hood and he became a different horse – I can’t believe it,” Cruz said after the 2020 G2 Karrakatta Plate (1200m) winner surged to his first win – and fifth in Hong Kong – since 1 January, 2023.

“He’s a very laidback, switched off type of horse but once I took the hood off, he’s completely different.”

Cruz and Chung combined with Outgate to clinch the Class 3 Wong Leng Handicap (1400m) after David Hall’s Champion Instinct marched to his third successive win by landing the first section of the Class 4 Needle Hill Handicap (1200m) under Andrea Atzeni to continue a blistering run of form after going winless in his first 11 starts.

“You can just see him in the paddock these days, he’s a really relaxed horse now and a professional racehorse. He’s accepting everything he does. He’s having stints to Conghua after every race which is agreeing with him,” Hall said.

“He’s coming back, he’s so much more relaxed in the paddock, relaxed in the run and jumps out of the gates first. He’s continued to improve and he’s been rewarded with a hat-trick.”

Ellis Wong followed his double from Happy Valley on Wednesday night (13 March) with a narrow victory on Douglas Whyte-trained Valiant Elegance in the Class 5 Castle Peak Handicap (1200m, dirt). Now winner of seven races, the Salade gelding edged out Super Joy by a nose, with Smart Leader a short head further away.

Alexis Badel and Pierre Ng posted their fifth win in tandem with Sea Sapphire’s success in the second section of the Class 4 Needle Hill Handicap (1200m) as Antoine Hamelin piloted Jamie Richards-trained Casa Cosmo to a runaway win in the Class 4 Sai Wan Shan Handicap (1800m).

Harry Bentley slotted his 12th win since the start of February when Ricky Yiu-trained Sunlight Power struck in the Class 4 Shek Nga Shan Handicap (1400m), his second successive victory at the course and distance.

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (20 March).

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