Nordic Dragon posts fifth win of the season as emerging talents surface at Happy Valley
Nordic Dragon crowned an excellent debut season – and took his prize money earnings beyond his purchase price of HK$7 million – to headline a string of impressive performances at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (14 June) with victory in the Class 2 Cricket Club Valley Stakes Handicap (1200m).
Notching his fifth win – all over the city circuit’s 1200m course – Nordic Dragon collected a HK$1 million PPG Bonus along with HK$1,504,800 in prize money to boost his career earnings to HK$7,070,150 from eight starts, eclipsing the HK$7 million owner Mr Edmond Yue outlaid at the 2022 Hong Kong International Sale.
Already the winner of a HK$1 million ISG bonus for winning at Class 3 level when rated 60 or higher in his first full season after the date of purchase, the Starspangledbanner gelding secured a second seven-figure windfall for succeeding in Class 2 with a rating of 80 or higher before turning five.
Having dictated with a sustained display of speed for jockey Matthew Poon, Nordic Dragon will now be spelled in preparation for next season.
“I’ll give him a rest and bring him back for next season,” Shum said. “Hopefully he can handle Sha Tin in the future. I did try once unsuccessfully but hopefully with more maturity, he can handle it. I will give him one more start at Happy Valley next season, then Sha Tin.”
The 2023 Hong Kong International Sale will be held at Sha Tin on Friday, 30 June.
Nordic Dragon was among of a quartet of eye-catching winners, notably first-starters Fast Serve and Joyful Hunter, as well as Caspar Fownes-trained and Aaron Kwok-owned Dancing Code, who claimed a HK$1 million PP Bonus with a blistering win in the Class 3 Tai Tam Gap Handicap (1200m) under Vincent Ho.
Ho, who took his tally of winners for the season to 85 with Dancing Code’s triumph, was impressed with Joyful Hunter’s explosive win in the first section of the Class 4 Wong Nai Chung Gap Handicap (1200m) for Francis Lui.
“He was very green – so raw and green – but he’s got a good turn of foot and he’s a big boy,” Ho said of the Darci Brahma three-year-old. “He’s got plenty to improve on, for sure. He was very hot behind the gate, everything was wrong but he could still run well, so looking forward to seeing what he can do in the future.”
David Hall took training honours with a treble and was upbeat over the performance of Fast Serve, who landed the Class 4 Stanley Gap Handicap (1000m) in 56.97s under Luke Ferraris.
“To come to Happy Valley first start as a three-year-old against some older horses who know what their job is, he did it well,” Hall said of the Swiss Ace gelding who had performed well in a string of trials before tonight’s debut.
“I think there’s still room for improvement with him, even though he’s had a pretty good schooling. He’s had trials in New Zealand, trials in Australia and trials in Hong Kong, but he’s needed them because he’s obviously been a little bit difficult to work with. It’s just good to get the result.”
Hall also prevailed with consistent veteran Maldives in the Class 3 Violet Hill Handicap (1650m) as Brenton Avdulla fired in his first Happy Valley winner and also teamed with Zac Purton to land the Class 4 Shouson Hill Handicap (1800m) with Management Folks.
Ferraris also had an excellent meeting, producing a masterful ride to guide Jimmy Ting-trained Concerto to a runaway victory in the Class 5 Mount Nicholson Handicap (1650m). The young South African gave the six-year-old the run of the race behind the speed in third place before steaming along the rails for a three-and-a-half length win.
“The draw helped a lot, and he got into a nice spot but he still felt a bit green,” Ferraris said of the Dalakhani gelding, who had been sidelined since January after he bled from both nostrils. “It was a nice win at the top of Class 5 and there looks to be improvement and hopefully he can win again with a light weight in Class 4.”
Frankie Lor and Matthew Chadwick combined with Flaming Passion to clinch the second section of the Class 4 Wong Nai Chung Gap Handicap.
Encountered closed the programme with a brilliant win in the Class 2 Windy Gap Handicap (1650m), streaking to a four-and-three-quarter length triumph for Manfred Man despite covering ground under Derek Leung.
Slotting his fourth win this season over the course and distance, the Churchill gelding charged to the lead approaching the turn before clocking 23.26s for the final 400m to Man with his stable’s 40th win of the season.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (18 June).
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