Hong Kong’s youngest rider Regan Bayliss lit up a damp day and showed a maturity beyond his years with a thrilling last-to-first success aboard Rise High in the Class 1 Lavender Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.

The 21-year-old, who has partnered more than 350 winners in Australia, started the day winless from 22 attempts since arriving in Hong Kong but insisted this was just another day at the office and had no hesitation in settling his mount last in a strongly-run race.

Caspar Fownes has seen many such days during his fifteen years as a trainer, but there was more at stake than normal after a streak of 41 consecutive losers and the way he punched the air shouting “yeah baby!” as Rise High (120lb) cut down Zac Purton aboard the 2.5 favourite What Else But You (126lb) close home was telling.

“It’s a big win because of so many things,” said Fownes. “Things haven’t gone our way recently but it was great to give this kid a chance and see him come through like that – it’s exactly the way this horse needs to be ridden and I’m so glad it worked out.”

Fownes feels Rise High has the makings of a high-class 2000m horse in time. Meanwhile, Bayliss feels he is gradually getting a foothold on the Hong Kong ladder after putting in work to make as many new contacts as possible.

“For some reason I wasn’t nervous at all. I feel as if I’ve been putting my horses in the right place and the rest is out of my control. Rise High was the first ride I’ve had that I thought was a really live chance. I can’t say I was ever confident he’d get there as Zac had such a lovely run but Rise High really went through his gears and it was a great feeling to get the bob.”

“I’ve been working hard and thankfully I’ve been given a great chance by Caspar and numerous other trainers, so I’m thrilled that it’s come together,” he said.

Champion’s Way remains unbeaten

One of the other trainers to give Bayliss a chance was John Size and the champion trainer was in playful mood after the exciting Champion’s Way made it three wins from as many starts with a commanding success on his Sha Tin debut the Oncidium Handicap (1200m).

“I’m not sure about having my picture taken with jockeys that young - as it makes me look old - but a horse like this will put something in your step,” he joked.

“I spoke to Regan at length about the wide draw but the rain helped with that and he handled it quite well. This horse is scopey and might just go a bit further than 1200m. He idles down once he sees the front but if he has something to chase for longer that will help his chances of running out a longer trip.”

Bayliss looked like he was about to seal a memorable treble when Benno Yung’s Not Usual Talent nosed ahead in the closing stages of the concluding Primula Handicap (1600m) but it wasn’t to be.

Zac Purton had been playing second and third fiddle all day long - with a remarkable five seconds and three third places - but the champion was determined not to go home empty handed and forced the Size-trained Unicron Jewellery up close home to score by a short head.

Gibson has thinking to do after Wishful's latest win

Trainer Richard Gibson is wrestling with high-class choices after Wishful Thinker (125lb) recorded a sixth Hong Kong success in the Flamingo Flower Handicap (1200m).

The five-year-old needed to land the Class 1 contest to boost his prospects of a tilt at the Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) at Meydan On Dubai World Cup night (March 30) and did so in fluent style under Silvestre de Sousa, gradually mastering front-running Gunnison (119lb) in a slowly- run race to forge a length and a quarter clear.

De Sousa wasn’t moving with his usual fluency on dismounting after recent back issues but Gibson praised him for a “cool and collected ride” as he considered options.

“The horse showed a lot of class and he’s still improving, which is very exciting considering the rating (112) he’s at,” he said.

A further rating rise for this success will certainly enhance Wishful Thinker’s prospects of being invited to take on Godolphin star Blue Point in Dubai but the methodical Gibson is also considering valuable options at home, including the G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) on 7 April.

“First of all, we have to get the invitation for Dubai,” he added. “I spoke to his owners (the Ideal Brilliance Syndicate) yesterday and we’ve got two nice problems. We have the nice problem of choosing whether to go to Dubai or the nice problem of whether to target the top sprint races coming up but I’m just pleased to have an improving sprinter and we haven’t got to the bottom of him yet.”

Dragon blows hot as another HKIS beckons

Guy Dragon only came into the equation for division two of the Geranium Handicap (1400m) when the race was divided but Chris So’s grey was all the rage in the market and came home powerfully under Karis Teetan to record his first win at the fourth attempt.

So, who saddles Tianchi Monster for next week’s BMW Hong Kong Derby, feels rain helped his winner. “Guy Dragon is improving,” he said. “I was planning to go to a mile with him but after today he will probably have one or maybe two more runs over 1400m.”

The winner was a HK$4.2m purchase at last year’s Hong Kong International Sale (March), which takes place again in the Sha Tin paddock on Friday March 15.

Teetan doubled up and moved on to 57 for the season in the following Hyacinth Handicap (1000m) when Multimillion raced clear from a long way out on his return to the minimum trip.

Dubai looks elusive after State defeat

Tony Millard’s dreams of a trip to Dubai took a knock when Elusive State finished only fourth behind King Genki in the Class 2 Lusitano Challenge Cup (1650m).

Connections had been hoping for an invitation to the G2 Godolphin Mile if the five-year-old could make it five out five this season but Elusive State merely plugged on as King Genki and Matthew Poon rallied strongly to foil Raging Blitzkrieg close home.

“That’s the way it goes,” said a resigned Millard. Meanwhile, Tony Cruz was “thrilled” with his winner, who has gained all his five wins over Sha Tin's 1650m AW course.

Victor Wong’s 7lb claim continues to be a valuable asset and the 24-year-old rode his 29th winner of the season as Winner Supreme dominated to complete a Me Tsui double in division one of the Kalanchoe Handicap (1200m).

Division two provided a similar performance as Frankie Lor’s Simply Big raced clear under Umberto Rispoli. The winning rider pointed to spotless silks as evidence of missing any kickback and hinted at what might be to come for Simply Big.

“I decided to lead and everything was right,” he said. “I don't know what is next but it wouldn't surprise me if Frankie puts his new 10lb claimer (Alfred Chan) on and says ‘catch me if you can.’”

Trainer Peter Ho’s season has taken a marked turn for the better of late and Hay Run’s dour success in the Freesia Handicap (1800m) was his fifth in four meetings.

Dylan Mo needs one more winner to reach the apprentice graduation benchmark of 70 after helping the six-year-old open his Hong Kong account at the 26th attempt, while Derek Leung moved to 12 for the season when front-running Sky Treasure (118lb) just got the better of a sustained duel with Chairman Lo (131lb) in division one of the Geranium Handicap (1400m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday 13 March.

 

 

 

 

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