Manfred Man caps magnificent campaign with season-ending Sha Tin feature victory

Leo Schlink

16/07/2023 23:19

Encountered returns victorious with Derek Leung.
Encountered returns victorious with Derek Leung.

Delivering an unexpected triumph for Manfred Man, former Irish galloper Encountered delivered a book-ending triumph to crown the veteran trainer’s finest season in style with victory in the Class 1 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (16 July).

Man, 65, slotted a career-best 44th winner of the season when Encountered (128lb) speared to a neck victory under Derek Leung over Circuit Stellar (131lb) with pace-setting Tuchel (133lb) a further neck away in third.

Famed by the deeds of the world’s highest-rated sprinter Lucky Sweynesse, Man closed the season as he started it - with a win in the programme feature on the opening day of the season.

Lucky Sweynesse, who advanced to a trio of Group 1 triumphs and eight wins from 10 starts for the campaign, got the ball rolling for Man by winning the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap (1200m) on 11 September and Encountered delivered a winning finale for Man with today’s gritty performance.

“I’m a little bit surprised. His first win in Hong Kong was in Class 3 and now he’s just won in Class 1,” Man said. “But his form is good. Let’s see where he goes from here. The season has been very good. I’m very happy.”

Encountered grabs a fifth win this term.

Completing a hat-trick of wins after two impressive Happy Valley victories, Encountered was handled with precision and patience by Leung, who had another solid season with 36 wins.

“He had a good run, last time he won super but this time was much more difficult and back to Sha Tin,” Leung said. “It was a very strong field today and it was a good win. He keeps improving, he stays on and he was very impressive today.”

John Size marked the close of a record 12th Hong Kong trainers’ title with a quartet with Fingers Crossed, Leading Fortune, Simple Hedge and Golden Express for a seasonal total of 79.

Size combined with a trio of compatriots to finish the season with a flourish. Luke Currie won the Class 5 Mr Award Handicap (1200m) with Fingers Crossed, Hugh Bowman prevailed on Leading Fortune in the Class 3 Sight Winner Handicap (1600m) before Zac Purton triumphed on Simple Hedge in the Class 3 All You Wish Handicap (1400m) and Golden Express in the Class 2 Joy And Fun Handicap (1200m).

“I am very grateful to have been able to achieve another championship,” Size, 69, said completing the term with 79 wins before looking to the future. “I’m very happy to put myself on the line and supply a good service. I get a lot of satisfaction from improvements in the little things.

“It’s very humbling.”

Zac Purton ended the season as he started it – triumphantly.

Purton completed the season with a treble for a record total of 179 wins and a sixth Hong Kong jockeys’ championship with dominating 2022/23 reign, having won the first race of the season on This Is Charisma and also the last on Golden Express.

“It’s always nice to have some winners on closing day, especially for John after the seasons we’ve both had,” Purton said. “It’s great for him to become the legend that he already was and complete his quest for a 12th championship. For me to be a part of that, means a lot.

“We can go away and enjoy the holiday and try and do it all again next season.”

Vincent Ho finished the campaign with a fourth Tony Cruz Award for the leading homegrown jockey with 96 wins, crowning a magnificent season with success aboard regular ally Francis Lui’s Enterprise Attack in the Class 3 Pingwu Spark Handicap (1200m).

Making his first appearance after a pair of wins in Queensland when trained by Steven O’Dea and Matthew Hoysted, the Spill The Beans three-year-old swept to a soft win in the blustery wind and rain.

Ho also partnered Caspar Fownes-trained Karma to a strong win in the second section of the Class 4 Medic Kingdom Handicap (1400m).

“Vincent rode a perfect race and it’s nice to see this horse get a win before the season finishes and hopefully we can have some fun with him next season,” said Fownes, who ended the campaign with 51 wins.

John Size completes a magnificent season.
John Size completes a magnificent season.

After 827 of 835 races, Chris So’s Fun N Glory, under Matthew Chadwick, and David Hall-trained Hong Kong Hall, for Purton, shared the first winning dead-heat of the season in the Class 4 Victory Marvel Handicap (1200m).

Richard Gibson bowed out of Hong Kong racing with the victory of Ernest Feeling under Class 5 Miraculous Handicap (1400m). Gibson departs Hong Kong after 14 seasons and 287 wins before Hugh Bowman drove Bulletproof to victory in the Class 4 Solar Hei Hei Handicap (1800m) for Ricky Yiu.

Karis Teetan notched his 56th victory of the season when the Mauritian prevailed on Parterre in the first section of the Class 4 Big Profit Handicap (1400m) to provide Tony Millard with his ninth win of the season.

Based on a fan vote, Golden Sixty was acclaimed as Hong Kong’s Most Popular Horse of the Year, while Vincent Ho was voted Hong Kong’s Most Popular Jockey of the Year.

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