Pierre Ng hopes Duke Wai can provide G1 Centenary Sprint Cup upset

Leo Schlink

03/02/2023 11:41

Pierre Ng has 21 wins in his debut season.
Pierre Ng has 21 wins in his debut season.

In the midst of a fine debut season, Pierre Ng hopes Duke Wai can add further lustre to the freshman stable’s record with a strong performance in the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) at the Sha Tin on Sunday (5 February).

Pitted against outstanding performers Wellington (128) and Lucky Sweynesse (125), Duke Wai (112) is among a string of quality sprinters bidding to upstage Hong Kong’s two highest-rated speedsters in the HK$12 million contest after dead-heating for third with Sky Field behind Sight Success in the G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) on 8 January at Sha Tin.

“Duke Wai has been running well, he was unlucky last start and after that he trialled well (at Sha Tin on 27 January) and hopefully this time he can run in the top four,” Ng said.

“Wellington and Lucky Sweynesse are definitely the two hardest to beat, but hopefully we can get into the top four.”

With 21 wins and 49 minor placings from 248 starters in a busy start to the season, Ng has quickly announced himself and has secured three thirds at Group level with Duke Wai, including the G2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) on 20 November.

With five 1200m wins to his credit in Hong Kong, Duke Wai again represents a solid threat in a race also featuring Sight Success, Sky Field, Super Wealthy, Courier Wonder and Master Eight.

Zac Purton again teams with Lucky Sweynesse.
Zac Purton again teams with Lucky Sweynesse.

Leading the Hong Kong jockeys’ championship by 41 wins with 85 victories so far this season, Zac Purton is adamant four-time G1 winner Wellington remains the horse Lucky Sweynesse will find hardest to beat on Sunday.

“We have an awkward gate (barrier eight) in a small field so I’m not sure how the tactics will be,” Purton. “I just hope we get our chance and see what we’ve got.

“Obviously, Wellington has had Lucky Sweynesse’s measure so far. The only time, we beat him was when Wellington pulled up lame, so he had a genuine excuse. I still think Wellington deserves to be favourite – he’s got the best record of any horse in the race and he’s certainly the horse to beat.”

With victories in the 2022 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), 2021 and 2022 G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m), Wellington will attempt to match the legendary Silent Witness’s feat of annexing all of Hong Kong’s three major sprints with success in the Centenary Sprint Cup – as well as holding the 2022 G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).

To be ridden by Alexis Badel from barrier five, Richard Gibson’s champion sprinter seeks his sixth win in seven starts and 13th victory overall.

Represented by Master Eight in the sprint feature, Frankie Lor has high hopes Money Catcher can land a third feature this season when he contests the G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) under Silvestre de Sousa.

Already the winner this term of the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) and the G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m), Money Catcher (132lb) is well placed to strike again, according to Lor.

“After his last start, he has kept his form well. There was no need to trial him between runs,” Lor said outlining possible plans to tackle the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on 26 February.

“He’s getting better and always consistent. On Sunday, he can lead or take a sit.”

Lor, the reigning Hong Kong champion trainer, will also saddle Looking Great (115lb) in the Centenary Vase, with this season’s dual winner to start from barrier one under Karis Teetan.

Glorious Dragon (135lb) will contest the race for the third time, having run second in 2020 for Tony Millard and Alexis Badel before winning the 2021 edition for Francis Lui and Matthew Poon. Now eight, the grey will attempt to provide Pierre Ng with his first win in the feature under Harry Bentley.

Sunday’s (5 February) Sha Tin meeting kicks off with the Class 5 Lung Yat Handicap (1400m) at 1pm.

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