Joao Moreira believes Master Eight has the ability to rise to the top of Hong Kong’s sprinting ranks after the gifted speedster preserved his unbeaten record with victory in the G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) to seal a memorable day for trainer Frankie Lor.
Lor, who previously won the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy in 2019 with Big Party, also pocketed the G3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1400m) with Healthy Happy and Alexis Badel, but Moreira predicts Master Eight can deliver even higher honours for the quietly-spoken trainer.
“He might not be the best horse, the best sprinting horse in Hong Kong at the moment but he has everything to be that in the future,” Moreira said of Master Eight, now winner of five starts from as many attempts since joining Lor’s yard as a Privately Purchased Griffin.
“He’s obviously improving and today was obviously his toughest test and he’s done what we’ve expected him to do – he’s a good horse. We didn’t think he was going to get beaten and he’s proved that we are not wrong about that.”
Moreira, who first claimed the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy in 2017 with Amazing Kids, was clinical aboard the son of Oamaru Force, allowing the chestnut to settle just off the speed set by Computer Patch before overhauling Sight Success in 56.04s. Super Wealthy was third.
Lor expects the import’s stunning rating rise from 52 to 95 to now carry into triple figures – and a future in G1 or G2 company.
“I think the horse can still improve. He will go up to a rating over 100, so we’ll be looking for a Group race for him next start. I will talk to Joao to see what we do, because Joao has commitments to some other good sprinters,” Lor said, hinting the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m), the first leg of the Hong Kong Speed Series, at Sha Tin on Sunday, 23 January might be an option.
“But Joao also has some good sprinters (he might also consider riding), so I need to talk to him and talk to the owner before we make a decision. More time will be better but his rating will be a hundred and something and we need to race him in Group races – that cannot change, we don’t have a choice.”
Packing Victory’s emergence as a leading contender for the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on Sunday, 30 January continued with triumph in the Class 2 Cherry Handicap (1400m) for Badel and Danny Shum.
Posting his fourth win from six starts, the Reliable Man gelding earned a HK$1 million High Achievement Bonus for his owner.
“It was a very nice win, he’s got a big stride – nice action – he’s got early speed, he’s got many qualities,” Badel said. “He did a good job today – he’s a very, very nice horse.”
“He had a light weight (118lb) and he got cover, so he had everything in his favour. Hopefully he is still improving, we will go straight to the Classic Mile from here,” Shum confirmed.
David Hayes will consider Lucky With You for the Hong Kong Classic Mile after the gelding’s emphatic success in the Class 3 Chinese Banyan Handicap (1200m) under Karis Teetan.
“It keeps the door open a little bit for the Classic Mile, he will go to a 1400 metre race in a couple of weeks and then a couple of weeks to the Classic Mile if he wins the 1400 (metres) like that,” Hayes said.
Richard Gibson could also target the Hong Kong Classic Mile with Navas Two, winner of the Class 3 Cotton Tree Handicap (1400m) for Ruan Maia.
“There are options for him, let’s see how he pulls up,” Gibson said.
Unbeaten in two starts, Flying Ace continued an upward trajectory for David Hall and Matthew Poon with an easy victory in the first section of the Class 4 Palm Handicap (1200m), prompting Hall to predict a bright future.
“He was obviously impressive first-up and he was a little bit better today, he got himself out of the gates a bit better and took up a good position.
“It’s good to see him progressing and getting another win on the board,” Hall said.
Lor has similar hopes for Eason, winner of the second section of the Class 4 Palm Handicap (1200m) under Joao Moreira.
“He’s still very green, so I’m hoping he can continue to improve. He’s a nice horse,” said Lor, who took training honours with a treble.
Vagner Borges continued a burgeoning partnership with John Size, notching his ninth winner of the season for the 11-time champion trainer when former English galloper Crossford stormed to victory in the Class 3 Flame Tree Handicap (1600m).
Darci Joy extended a remarkably consistent season with his second win in four starts for trainer Ricky Yiu, this time in the Class 4 Willow Handicap (1800m) under Matthew Chadwick before Yiu sealed a race to race double when Harry Bentley rated Nimble Nimbus to perfection to snare the Class 4 Poplar Handicap (1600m).
It was Englishman Bentley’s ninth success of the campaign and Yiu’s 13th.
Michael Chang saddled only one runner for the card and Mister Monte duly prevailed with his second win in three starts for Dylan Mo in the Class 5 Yew Handicap (1800m). The victory was Mister Monte’s fifth in 55 Hong Kong starts.
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday (5 January) with the G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m).