Romantic Touch (121lb) carried off the Class 1 Kwangtung Handicap Cup (1400m) at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday and sparked a three-win spree for a new alliance.
Karis Teetan, third in the jockeys’ premiership last term and touted as a potential title contender this time around, teamed with two-time champion trainer and Hong Kong hero Tony Cruz to snare races two, three and four on the 10-contest card.
After a confident catch-me-if-you-can score on Romantic Touch in the feature, Teetan drove the Cruz-trained up-and-comer Circuit Number Two to a narrow verdict in the Class 3 Dongguan Handicap (1600m); the duo completed a hat-track in the next, the Class 5 Zhuhai Handicap (1400m), thanks to Supreme Witness.
That tally represented two more wins than the pairing enjoyed in the whole of last season when Teetan had 12 rides for the Cruz stable, the last of which, back in June, yielded a G3 success with California Whip.
The Mauritian lightweight arrived at the track today without a win in the season’s opening two fixtures but there was no evidence of wilting confidence. Teetan’s handling of Romantic Touch inferred the opposite, in fact, marching to the lead and then winding up to hold off race favourite Rattan (118lb) by three parts of a length in a time of 1m 21.72s.
“Romantic Touch is a tough little horse,” the rider said of the 7/1 chance. “When I trialled him I was very happy with him. Even though a couple of other horses were fancied, I knew that if I could get him into position and enjoy a nice run, then he’d let down for me. Tony had him spot on.”
Cruz is looking towards the G3 Celebration Cup (1400m) on 1 October as the eight-year-old’s likely next target.
“Karis rode a perfect race on the lead,” the handler said. “This horse is very fit and his trial was really good so I expected him to run well. He’ll go to the Group 3 on National Day, there’s nothing else for him, really.”
Teetan, too, has his focus on loftier prizes in the months to come after ending the day alongside champion Zac Purton and new arrival Grant Van Niekerk, and one behind Vincent Ho at the top of the leaderboard.
“It’s early days,” Teetan said. “The first two meetings were quiet but I just put my head down and kept working harder and I knew that I had a few nice rides coming up. This support from Tony has boosted my confidence, he’s a great idol in Hong Kong, people love him here and he knows so much about the racing; looking forward there are bigger things ahead.”
Those bigger things, Teetan hopes, will feature Cruz’s stable superstar, Pakistan Star. Today’s hat-trick grabbing partnership arrived on the heels of the pre-season news that the rider will steer owner Kerm Din’s Group 1 winner this term.
“When Tony told me I’d be riding the big horse it was out of the blue and it really boosted my confidence up. He’s given me some rides and I’m glad that he and his owners have that trust in me – I really needed this opportunity,” he said.
Teetan was unable to make a winning mark in those green and white-starred silks this afternoon, though, as the promising Pakistan Friend (133lb) ran third under top-weight in the Class 4 Shantou Handicap (1400m) – Hinyuen Swiftness (117lb) took the spoils for trainer Dennis Yip and jockey Eddy Lai.
Me Tsui, meanwhile, was not on site to cheer Great Treasure to victory under Alberto Sanna in the Class 4 Shenzhen Handicap (1600m), or see the Ho-ridden Go Public snag a last-gasp score in the Class 3 Chaozhou Handicap (1200m, all-weather). The handler was instead in Seoul, Korea, watching his Fight Hero run a close second in the KOR G1 Korea Sprint (1200m).
Ho was continuing his bright start to the season. Having notched the opener for trainer Caspar Fownes aboard Happy Sound, the former champion apprentice found himself at the top of the jockeys’ premiership with four wins after Go Public’s effort.
The finale went to High Five and the South African combination of Van Niekerk and trainer Tony Millard. And Australian handler Michael Freedman got off the mark for the campaign in race five when Endearing scored from the front under a canny Douglas Whyte ride.
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 12 September.