By Hans Ebert
Too often they get lost in the shuffle. Lost in the column inches and tweets and talk and innuendos given to the the current jockey merry-go-round. But this season in particular, the equine talent in Hong Kong has never been better. Never has there been a better crop. They’ve come of age. A crop of extremely good young gallopers. Gallopers who could be anything.
There was the facile win of Glorious Forever at Sha Tin last Sunday. Glorious Forever. The younger brother of English import Time Warp who came into his own last season.
From two consecutive wins at Happy Valley for local rider Alvin Ng, the Tony Cruz trained galloper graduated from primary school to university.
After a third at Sha Tin with Ng aboard, Time Warp went through a couple of jockey changes before Zac Purton jumped aboard. The new team ended up racing away with the Hong Kong Cup by leading all the way.
Having missed seeing the two winning runs of Glorious Forever last season, the second of which saw him break his elder brother’s record for 2000 metres, it was easy to see why everyone was talking about this Frankie Lor-trained galloper.
On Sunday, running over 1800 metres and making his debut for the season, it was meant to be a straight forward quinella with John Size’s impressive last start winner Insayshable. It turned out to be a one horse affair.
While Insayshable capitulated and just held on for fourth, Zac Purton rode Glorious Forever with an understandable arrogance. He knew he was on the best horse in the race.
There’s no reason why he can’t improve. He’s still learning what racing is all about. That’s what interesting about Glorious Forever. And quite a few others still taking baby steps.
Hong Kong has usually had one or two champion horses every few seasons.
Going back in time, there was the great Co-Tack. Silver Lining. Silent Witness. Sound Print. The very underrated David Ferraris trained Vengeance Of Rain, below with Anthony Delpech aboard.
There’s been California Memory, Viva Pataca, Collection, Good Ba Ba- and the idiot lucky enough to own this great galloper- Lucky Nine, Ambitious Dragon.
In recent years, there’s been Able Friend, Rapper Dragon, Werther.
During this season of change, however, trainer John Moore has Beauty Generation shifting gears, upping the ante, taking on all comers and winning.
Pakistan Star remains an enigma- a horse with the potential to be great, but only if he wants the fame.
There’s then a new group of young upstarts knocking on the door and waiting to make their presence felt.
Glorious Forever aside, on Sunday, there was Bigwood winning over 1600 meters at his second start of the season. Again with Zac Purton aboard.
The Caspar Fownes trained galloper might not appear to be superstar material. Not yet anyway. But these are early days. The way Bigwood strolled down the outside to take out a Class 3 race, showed a galloper with plenty of upside. How much more?
Waiting on the sidelines, meanwhile, are the Tony Millard pair- Singapore Sling and Nassa. Both being South African imports. Both ran on Sunday. Made their debuts for the season. Millard made it known that both gallopers were not a hundred percent fit. That Sunday was the dress rehearsal. Still, for Singapore Sling to run a very good second to Beauty Generation in the Sha Tin Trophy over 1600 metres was something that couldn’t be ignored. It was a very good run.
Nassa, in the same race, did what he had to do. He’s looking for longer.
There’s plenty of upside in Rise High who ran in the same race. But saddled with a bad barrier to contend with, forget he ever went around on Sunday. He’s much better than that.
As for the run of Pakistan Star? It could have meant anything.
In the last race, favourite Simply Brilliant, a son of Frankel and another ride for the Zac Attack, was hemmed in just when he was having his motor revved up. He still managed to fly home for third from an impossible position. It was a remarkable run under the circumstances.
Sunday also saw a commanding win by John Size’s Hot King Prawn in the 1200 metre Premier Bowl.
The win was no doubt something welcomed by jockey Sam Clipperton. Incredulously, this was only his second winner for the season.
Though another Size runner and race favourite IVictory tailed off for reasons still unknown, the debut runs this season of Mr Stunning and Fifty Fifty showed two gallopers getting ready to show their best. In December. In the Hong Kong Sprint.
These youngsters might not be an embarrassment of riches. But then again, who knows?
It’s like young South African rider Grant van Niekerk. He arrived here an unknown. There were plenty of doubters. All some of us had heard was that he was bit of a “scatter brain”. But naturally gifted. How horses travel well for him. This has now been proven many times in Hong Kong.
It was proven again on Sunday. While apprentice Dylan Mo looked to run out of stamina and couldn’t even manage to get race favourite Handsome Bo Bo hold on for second- it was awful to watch- Grant van Niekerk racked up his seventh winner of the season aboard King Opie.
Everything underlined just how international horse racing in Hong Kong is today. It also showed that Happy Valley has its Happy Wednesday brand.
Bow ties ties aside, Sha Tin is the meeting place and runway for Hong Kong’s up and coming equine talent to show off their moves. Their X Factor. There’s an idea there. A big idea.
It also says that the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December will truly live up to the International branding. It doesn’t need smoke and mirrors. And hype. Keeping it real never does.
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