It’s all about rhythm with Prawn Baba (123lb).
On Sunday, the gelding’s honest drum-beat gallop saw him run away with the Class 2 Kowloon Cricket Club Centenary Cup Handicap (2200m) at Sha Tin Racecourse.
“He only has one rhythm but he never stopped, he’s very brave,” jockey Olivier Doleuze said after the John Size-trained five-year-old had won the feature at odds of 9/1.
Doleuze, controlling the Australian-bred’s cadence, shifted from a stalking rail berth into clear running on the home turn – a move that claimed the lead with about 400m remaining. The Duke Of Marmalade gelding maintained a relentless stride to hold the staying-on Exultant (133lb) by a length and a quarter, with Doyeni (119lb) a further neck back in third.
“The pace was nice and I was able to race behind the leader,” Doleuze said.
“He’s a really one-paced horse so John asked me to make sure he was not too far behind. He just has his one rhythm.
“When I saw the leader was gone on the turn, I put him ready to go and gradually I just extended – he never stopped.”
Prawn Baba is Hong Kong racing’s equivalent of a journeyman boxer – brave, durable, and a winner when things fall his way – and today’s victory took his record to three from 23. The 95-rated runner’s biggest claim to fame will likely always be his role in Joao Moreira’s “Magic Eight” record of most wins in a Hong Kong race-day back in March last year – Prawn Baba was number eight.
“I don’t really know him, it’s the first time I’ve ridden him in a race but I trialled him the other day and he gave me a very good feeling,” Doleuze said.
The 45-year-old Frenchman took his season’s tally to 12. That total includes a Group 1 win earlier this year aboard the Size-trained D B Pin.
“It’s always nice to have the chance to ride for John – he has a lot of good horses. It’s not easy here, it’s always hard in Hong Kong,” the veteran said.
“I’ve won a Group 1 this year – last season it was hard for me to get a ride in Class 3 and I’ve just won a Class 2. It’s not a question of how many wins I make, it’s a question of whether or not I still enjoy it. When I wake up in the morning on race day I feel very happy to do my work so I see no reason why I will stop. We’ll see, but so far, I will try to ride another year and see if I go on after that.”
Exultant, third to Ping Hai Star in the Hong Kong Derby last start and the $2.50 favourite this time, ran on gradually from back in the field of 10.
“He’s just lacking a bit of a gear, he’s got a bit dour the longer he’s got into his prep. He needed every bit of the straight to get wound up, so 2400 (metres) is not going to be an issue,” jockey Brett Prebble said.
The four-year-old shouldered top-weight today and Prebble felt that the Tony Cruz-trained gelding might benefit back at level-weights next time should he take up his entry in the G1 QEII Cup (2000m) on April 29.
“Dropping back to 126 pounds is going to give him a big chance, too,” he said.
Five for Shum’s Pick
The afternoon’s other Class 2, the Victoria Harbour Handicap (1200m), saw Pick Number One (118lb) register a dirt track five-timer under Joao Moreira.
Danny Shum’s charge has met with only one reversal this term and that was a second-placing on the turf at his second career start, back in November.
“He’s only a three-year-old but he takes his racing very well. I’d like to race him more but his options on the dirt track are limited now,” Shum said after the 2.4 favourite had held Calculation (123lb) by a neck.
That brought up a double for Shum who earlier saw the 25/1 shot Golden Effort land a 1200m Class 4 on the dirt under Matthew Chadwick. That rider also took the card’s second race, a 1200m Class 5 dirt track heat, atop 19/1 chance Rainbow Gold for trainer Peter Ho.
The season’s first Griffin race went to Styling City who lived up to his name in the opener, the Castle Peak Bay Plate (1000m). John Moore’s two-year-old rolled six and a half lengths clear at odds of 6.8 in the seven-runner affair.
“We’ve always known he has some talent and he was a readymade two-year-old – I could have actually run him last September or October, that’s how advanced he was. He’s just lived up to our expectations there – the progression from their second trial to the race, for my stable, is to winning these races,” Moore said.
Almond Lee took out a double in races five and six with the Victor Wong-ridden Great Treasure and Namjong Plus, successful under Karis Teetan.
There was a double for the stallion Makfi, too. The Michael Freedman-trained Fiama scored under jockey Umberto Rispol, and, in the finale, another son of the G1 2,000 Guineas winner, Win Beauty Win, took the spoils for trainer Paul O’Sullivan and jockey Chad Schofield.
Trainer Frankie Lor and former champion jockey Douglas Whyte landed a Class 3 down the straight with Wayfoong Vinnie (119lb) at 19/1. The Me Tsui-trained Go Public was the day’s longest-priced winner – Keith Yeung drove the 37/1 chance to success in the Class 3 Tolo Harbour Handicap (1400m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, April 18.