Demonstrating the benefits of an exhaustive three-month stint at the end of last season, Harry Bentley put hard-won lessons into immediate effect with victory on Turin Redstar in the Class 3 Community Chest Cup Handicap (1650m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday (8 September).
Snaring the first points in the HK$1 million DBS x Manulife Million Challenge, Turin Redstar gave Bentley a perfect start to his second term in Hong Kong as the young Englishman bids to build on last season’s experiences.
“It’s a fantastic way to start the season, I’m very pleased to have grabbed a winner on just the second meeting,” said Bentley, who rode five winners in Hong Kong last season. “It was very important for me to keep up the momentum that I finished with at the end of last season, just to bang in one early is great – it fills me with confidence.
“The fact I rode the last three months of last season – I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to come into the jockey ranks – gave me some valuable experience while gaining contacts and understanding how the whole system works.
“It’s enabled me to start this season with a bit of traction.
“I was drawn well in (barrier) two, but there was a good old battle at the start to get that handy box position. I decided to take my mount back and get a breather in a perfect position in the second pair, one off the rail, and he relaxed well. He’s not got the best turn of foot, but I was confident at the top of the straight.”
Described by trainer Douglas Whyte as “an old man” with “a few aches and pains”, Turin Redstar shares leadership of the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge with Resolute, who narrowly triumphed in the Class 3 Repulse Bay Handicap (1000m) for Tony Millard and Joao Moreira.
Decisive Twelve also holds joint share of the lead with 15 points after victory for Chris So and Alexis Badel in the Class 3 Shek O Handicap (1200m).
The series, which involves Happy Valley races of Class 3 or above until 23 February, 2022, offers HK$650,000 to the winner, while the runner-up receives HK$250,000 and the third-best performer’s connections will pocket HK$100,000.
The challenge operates under a points system of 15 points for a win, six for second and four and three points, respectively, for third and fourth.
In a sign of things to come, Joao Moreira, Zac Purton and Karis Teetan – last season’s top-three in the championship – have quickly surged to the fore.
Moreira celebrated a treble, Purton posted a double and Teetan added to his Sunday (5 September) Sha Tin treble to again collectively dominate, while Badel also figured.
Danny Shum has been one of Purton’s strongest supporters for many years – the pair shared 29 winners last season – and the duo already has three victories in tandem this term.
Piano Solo delivered the pair’s victory of the night in the Class 4 Deep Water Bay Handicap (1650m) before Fortune Carrier prevailed in the first section of the Chung Hom Kok Handicap (1200m).
“I’ve always had a very good relationship with Zac because we trust each other. It’s good teamwork,” Shum said.
Me Tsui-trained Shanghai Power kicked off the Happy Valley season in superb fashion with a sustained display of speed under Moreira to win the Class 5 Big Wave Bay Handicap (1000m) in a new class record of 56.52s.
Teetan continued searing form with victory on Wood On Fire in the second section of the Class 4 Chung Hom Kok Handicap (1200m), prompting trainer Peter Ho to describe the success as “precious.”
Reigning champion trainer Caspar Fownes notched his first success of the new season when Moreira mustered Jazz Steed late to roll past rivals to snatch the Class 4 Middle Bay Handicap (1000m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (12 September).