High-flying handler Ricky Yiu snared a treble at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and earned a brush with pop royalty thanks to After Me’s courageous win in the Class 4 Swedish Cup Handicap (1200m).
“I remember ABBA, the 70’s were my time,” Yiu said after Benny Andersson of the Swedish super group had presented the silverware.
After Me has flourished since being stabled at Conghua and the four-year-old responded to jockey Matthew Chadwick’s stretch drive with new-found determination.
“It was a gutsy effort, all heart,” Chadwick said. “But the stable lad, pre-race, he said that the horse has come back from China and he’s so happy, so full of himself.”
“In the race, he wasn’t sour like he used to be, and he showed that in the last 150 metres because he pinned his ears back and he tried his hardest.”
After Me’s Hong Kong record now stands at two from 17, with both wins coming after Yiu transferred the bay to the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s mainland facility.
“The feedback from the jockey has been that the horse is so relaxed in the race and when he was put among horses he was brave and he kept fighting,” the handler said.
After Me’s short-head win in a three-way finish was the middle-leg of Yiu’s three-timer which meant he ended the night with 24 wins in the premiership, six clear of the pack.
After Me and Matthew Chadwick (purple) have the win in a busy finish, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Yiu earlier sent out Island Winner to take the opener, the Class 5 Frigatebird Handicap (1000m) under Derek Leung, while Chadwick doubled up on the trainer’s Gentle Breeze to win the Class 3 Sand Martin Handicap (1000m).
That was Chadwick’s third win this term on the five-year-old and his fifth for Yiu, taking his season’s tally to 10.
“Gentle Breeze is going well,” the rider said. “The last couple of times he’s been sweating up and I was worried about him, he was sweating up again tonight but he’s improved this season, he’s more relaxed overall and that means he keeps more for the finish. The way he’s been winning, Class 2 shouldn’t be a problem.
“Ricky’s flying, so it’s a stable you want to be riding for,” he continued. “You always want to do better and I’m working my hardest to try and get better rides, quality rides. Racing is what it is, you have your ups and downs and you can only help your horse get to the line and these horses did their best for me tonight.”
Victory In Hand made all under Karis Teetan to break his maiden in the Class 4 Hong Kong Golf Club Centenary Cup Handicap (1200m).
The Francis Lui-trained four-year-old had raced well enough in defeat in five starts at Sha Tin – the last two down the 1000m straight – but clearly enjoyed his first run at the Valley over the longer trip. Teetan drove the 3.8 second-favourite to a two and a quarter-length score.
“He looks like he’s improved a lot, running here for the first time,” Lui said. “In his previous races, at Sha Tin, he’s been a bit nervous so I thought about how to calm him down and I decided to run him here in the different environment. He also had a wind problem, but not a serious problem.
“Today we were lucky to get a good draw (gate two) and the field wasn’t that strong. He needed those races at Sha Tin and also those fields were strong. The straight at Sha Tin is long as well and today, with the good draw, he could travel comfortably on the turn over 1200 metres.”
Teetan made it a race-to-race double when the David Ferraris-trained Magnetism (130lb) out-ran Heavenly Thought (133lb) by a nose in the Class 4 Mesia Handicap (1800m). It was the winner’s fifth Hong Kong win and first since June 2018.
Zac Purton opened his night’s account on the Richard Gibson-trained Powermax in race two, the Class 4 Albatross Handicap (1200m). It was the seven-year-old gelding’s fifth win at start 31.
The champion jockey made it a brace in the finale, the Class 3 Sea Eagle Handicap (1200m), when guiding the G1-placed South African import Cue The Music to a smart win under 133lb. That sealed a double for the Ferraris stable.
A canny back-stretch move saw Matthew Poon urge 19/1 shot Rickfield past rivals to head the field on the turn and that proved decisive as the Tony Millard-trained grey kept on to win the Class 3 Nightjar Handicap (1650m).
Joao Moreira made a long run for home on Flame Lily and the Frankie Lor-trained five-year-old boxed on down the straight to take the Class 4 Robin Handicap (1650m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday, 15 December.
Victory In Hand and Karis Teetan, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club