Jockey Nash Rawiller took riding honours at Sha Tin’s Easter Monday meeting (2 April) with a treble, but it was the final pin of his three-timer aboard the Richard Gibson-trained Harmony Hero in the Class 3 Primula Handicap (1400m) that may have held the most significance.
Rawiller brought Harmony Hero with a well-timed run down the centre of the Sha Tin track, with the Elvstroem three-year-old taking the final event by a length and a half at his second Hong Kong start. Notably, it came 13 years to the week since the Australian hoop partnered Elvstroem to a historic victory in the G1 Dubai Duty Free (1777m) – now the Dubai Turf – at the Dubai World Cup meeting.
“It meant a lot,” Rawiller said. “Obviously, Elvstroem is a horse that is very special to me and to be associated with a son of his with this much talent, it is exciting for sure.”
Harmony Hero had big wraps on him from the moment he arrived from Australia. A winner of two from two down under, including a big-margin score over G1 Caulfield Guineas victor Mighty Boss, he had finished fifth at his first start in his new home.
“This horse, from day one in Australia, has shown that he was a good horse,” Gibson said.
“They were very reluctant to sell us the horse, he was always thought of very highly, and since he has come to Hong Kong, he has shown us a lot of ability. It was a good effort from the horse and I look forward to seeing where he takes us.”
For Rawiller, start two was more about a learning curve for Harmony Hero with next year’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series already a long-term goal.
“Richard’s kept a bit in the locker and I think he’s still on the way up, he’s not right there yet,” the rider said.
“He’s quirky, he’s not straightforward and he’s still learning. I just gave him time, the fast pace was obviously a test for him but he passed it with flying colours. Today was all about where he will be three months from now, a year from now – he’s going somewhere from what he showed today.”
Gibson added: “We always thought that we would give him an easy season. We’ve still got plenty of time. This is a horse that you wouldn’t want to be running when it gets too hot, so I would guess one or two more starts this season and then we will put him away.”
Rawiller also took out the first section of the Class 4 Dendrobium Handicap (1200m) on the Ricky Yiu-trained My Winner and the Class 4 Kalanchoe Handicap (1400m) on Michael Chang’s Smiling Charm. The treble took him to 39 wins for the season and cemented him in third position in the jockeys’ title race, five clear of Karis Teetan.
Apprentice Wong scores first Hong Kong victory on Always Win
Apprentice Victor Wong celebrated a major milestone in his career with his first Hong Kong victory aboard Always Win in the day’s feature, the Class 3 Hong Kong Lions Cup Handicap (1200m).
Ten-pound claimer Wong, who was having just his sixth ride in Hong Kong after returning from his training in Australia, positioned the Benno Yung-trained Always Win fourth, one off the rail, in the early stages.
Upon straightening, Wong shook the reins at Always Win, but the gelding did not initially respond. It took a vigorous drive from the 24-year-old to get the Bahamian Bounty seven-year-old home for his second win in a row.
“Of course, riding my first winner here at home was very exciting, especially in a trophy race,” Wong said.
“I’ve waited a long time to get a Hong Kong winner, so this means a lot. Unfortunately, my family was not here, they are on the Chinese Mainland, but I will celebrate with them when they return.”
Yung added: “It was a good ride but he’s still got a lot to learn, as any young apprentice does at that stage of his career. I was happy to put Victor aboard though because I thought Always Win was in top form and he would be an easy ride for him. The 10 pounds was crucial.”
For Yung, it had been a long road back for the injury-prone Always Win. The galloper, who was named Mick’s Yer Man in Great Britain, has been restricted to eight starts for Yung in the last two years.
“I first got him in early 2016 and he had a number of injuries early,” Yung said.
“I told the owner (Patricia Hui) he may never race again, and that was the same after his fracture last May. But the owner has given me the space and the time to nurse him back to health and it is a tribute to her patience that he has now won two races in a row.”
In addition, Wong also finished second on two last-start winners; Sun Touch led until the 50m before finishing runner-up to Harmony Hero in the closer, while the John Moore-trained Agree was overhauled late by Douglas Whyte aboard Caspar Fownes’ Royal Performer in the Class 3 Oncidium Handicap (1600m).
Whyte, who also won the Class 3 Freesia Handicap (1200m) aboard Star Shine, was one of two riders to post a brace. Joao Moreira took his championship lead to 10 after wins aboard the John Size-trained pair Aerohappiness and What Else But You.
Racing resumes at Sha Tin on Sunday (8 April), with a Group 2 double-header – the Sprint Cup (1200m) and the Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) – highlighting the meeting.