Frankie Lor snagged a brace at Happy Valley on Wednesday night with a pair of promising young gallopers, Fat Turtle and Frustrated.
The former took the finale, section two of the Class 3 Matheson Handicap (1200m), under Zac Purton. It was no mean feat either, being the Australian import’s first Hong Kong start.
“It was a nice effort,” the champion jockey said of the 3.6 favourite. “He did a lot right, he jumped well, he got a little bit lost on the corners but I thought he was going to win easily when I came into the straight. He sort of sprinted clear and then he ran out of steam a bit.
“It’s never easy as a PP (Private Purchase) first time in Hong Kong, especially at Happy Valley under the lights.”
The nighttime illuminations were also a pre-race concern for Lor, who otherwise expected a bold show from the Smart Missile four-year-old, a three-time winner before his arrival at Sha Tin in mid-October.
“I thought he’d run well today because he had a good draw (3),” Lor said. “The only concern was it being Happy Valley and whether he’d be scared of the lights or not but he looked ok. He’ll handle a little bit further – 1400 and a mile.”
Fat Turtle and Zac Purton, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Frustrated, meanwhile, opened his account under apprentice Victor Wong at his third career start. The black gelding’s white face flashed down the home straight for a length and a half verdict in the Class 4 John Peel Handicap (1000m).
“Frustrated drew 11 in his first two races and that is very difficult but this time he was drawn two, which is much easier and he had Victor’s seven pounds off,” Lor said.
The hander has three leading contenders for Sunday’s (17 March) BMW Hong Kong Derby and admitted to nerves ahead of the big day. The barrier draw for the third leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series is on Thursday (14 March) morning.
Girl ends Van Niekerk drought
Grant van Niekerk ended a 53-ride, 10-meeting shutout with a rail-hugging victory on Lucky Girl in the Class 3 Yee Wo Street Handicap (1650m).
The South African arrived in September for his maiden Hong Kong season with guns blazing, notching a double on opening day. By 27 January, when King Opie scored at Sha Tin, Van Niekerk had a more-than-respectable 17 wins on the board – but there things stalled.
“This place can be really tough,” he said after driving the Danny Shum-trained gelding to a three-quarter-length score over Merrygowin.
“If you’re not getting the best of rides going into a meeting you try to be confident but you also have to be realistic. It makes a huge difference if you do win and prove to the trainers that you can ride.
“Some trainers have their jockeys so it’s hard to get rides from some of them but you have to keep grinding away. The wheel eventually turns,” he added.
Lucky Girl’s own dry run stretched back to November 2017.
Winners - Grant van Niekerk and Lucky Girl, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club