Hong Kong News

Copartner Ambition and Tomodachi Kokoroe share Challenge glory

The DBS x Manulife Million Challenge ended in a tie for the second time in three seasons after Danny Shum’s Copartner Ambition (Starspangledbanner) and the David Hayes-trained  Tomodachi Kokoroe (Written Tycoon) shared series honours at Happy Valley on Wednesday.

Decided on a format of 15 points for a win, six for second, four for third and three for fourth in Class 3 races and above from September until Wednesday’s meeting, ultimate success in the series hinged on Copartner Ambition’s performance in the Class 3 Sing Woo Handicap (1200m).

Needing a win for outright victory after Tomodachi Kokoroe seized the lead with victory in the Class 1 Singapore Pools Handicap (1200m), Copartner Ambition finished second to Bon’s A Pearla (Bon Hoffa) – which was sufficient for a share of the major prize.

With three wins and a second each, Copartner Ambition and Tomodachi Kokoroe tallied 51 points, while Chill Chibi (Wrote) finished on 49 points with three wins and a third.

The two sets of winning owners each collected bonuses of HK$675,000 (approx. AU$130,965), while Chill Chibi earned HK$150,000 (approx. AU$29,100) for his connections.

Seemingly struggling at the 400 metres, Copartner Ambition’s effort to pip Winning Icey (Hinchinbrook) by a short head for second place presented Shum with his fourth win in the series and left Hayes with his first.

“I’m happy, very happy,” Shum said. “Keeping my owners happy, keeping my horses happy is a major part of my job. This horse has done a very good job. It’s a long series, so it’s good to win.”

Having watched Copartner Ambition draw level with Tomodachi Kokoroe, Hayes said: “I thought we had it all to ourselves at the 400 metres. To come from Class 4 to winning in Class 1 in one season is a good effort by Tomodachi Kokoroe.”

The winner of six consecutive races in Queensland where he raced as Bank Bank Bank before export to Hong Kong, Tomodachi Kokoroe had risen from a 64 to 85 before Wednesday night’s success – which was his fourth from 14 Hong Kong starts.

Shum completed the evening in style when Ka Ying Spirit (Rubick) blasted to victory in the Class 3 King Kwong Handicap (1000m) under Alfred Chan to post his fourth first-up win from six attempts.

Teetan completed a brace on the Caspar Fownes-trained Galvanic (Ilovethiscity) in the Class 4 Yik Yam Handicap (1650m) to take his tally of wins for the season to 49, 18 fewer than six-time Hong Kong champion Zac Purton.

In one of the evening’s highlights, Tony Cruz trained the first three across the line in the Class 3 Village Handicap (1650m) with only a nose and a short head separating Winning Dragon (Ivan Denisovich), ridden by Brenton Avdulla, from Lovero (Lord Kanaloa) and Red Hare King (So You Think), respectively.

The Ricky Yiu-trained Mr Ascendency (The Gurkha) claimed the Class 1 Shan Kwong Handicap (1650m) under Harry Bentley, downing Happy Together (Dragon Pulse) and Nordic Dragon (Starspangledbanner), notching his first win at the city circuit and third in Hong Kong.

Formerly known as Rifleman, the gelding won twice in England for John & Thady Gosden before export to Hong Kong.

“I was well aware that even though it was only a seven-runner field that there was some quality in there and he was going to have to be on his A game to do the business,” Bentley said. “His form speaks for itself, his last three runs.

“The fact he had only 119lb on his back was a big advantage for him and I just feel like he’s hit a bit of a purple patch with his form and we got a lovely run throughout the race – the pace was pretty sedate and we were able to just wind it up.”

Bentley completed a double with a ground-saving ride on Cruz’s Serangoon (Ilovethiscity) in the Class 4 Yuk Sau Handicap (1800m).

Lyle Hewitson produced a masterly front-running ride to score on Manfred Man’s Golden Luck (Per Incanto) in the first section of the Class 4 Wang Tak Handicap (1200m) before Cody Mo and Matthew Poon combined with Happy Fat Cat (Shalaa) in the second section.

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