Furore won the HK$18 million BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin yesterday with a brilliant victory that fulfilled Frankie Lor’s dream of becoming the first “home grown” Hong Kong trainer to land the race for 11 years.
“I can’t express my feelings,” the handler said, after claiming Hong Kong’s most prestigious local prize in only his second season with a trainers’ licence.
Lor, whose father was a mafoo, grew up in Happy Valley, Hong Kong racing’s spiritual home. After 36 years advancing through the Hong Kong Jockey Club system as jockey, assistant and now trainer, he has an acute sense of what the 146-year-old feature means to the city’s racing folk.
“To have one horse to even run in the Derby – now I’ve won the Derby, so it’s a dream come true!” 53-year-old Lor said.
Tony Cruz was the last “local” trainer to win the race. He achieved that victory with Helene Mascot and Furore emulated that horse in winning the Derby after first claiming the opening leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile, but failing in the Hong Kong Classic Cup between times.
Lor began his career in racing as a jockey, riding 27 winners between 1981 and 1995, before becoming an assistant trainer under two of the great exponents of the profession, John Moore and John Size.
He was granted a full licence ahead of the 2017-18 season and ended that first campaign second on the premiership behind Size. He is again in second place to his former master on current standings.
While Lor has made a rapid advance to the top tier of Hong Kong’s training ranks, and in fact saddled three of the blue riband’s four top-rated gallopers, his Derby breakthrough was due in no small part to an astute ride from one of the world’s great exponents of jockeyship.
Hugh Bowman charted Furore’s path from gate 12, rolling his mount forward and slotting neatly into a handy berth one spot off the rail, all before the field of 14 had made it through the first turn.
“Although Furore drew poorly, I was confident he could do the job if I could get him in the right position,” the Australian ace said. “I had the stablemate (Mission Tycoon), the likely leader, drawn next to me, I thought I could at least go with him to start with and see where we end up. I was able to get a lovely run three pairs back.”
That proved to be the perfect position for the Group One-placed Australian import as Ka Ying Star and Mission Tycoon shared the lead in pedestrian style. The tempo was no help to the chances odds-on favourite Waikuku, taken back from the outside gate to sit second-last under Joao Moreira.
Zac Purton, meanwhile, decided his chances on the stamina-laden Lor runner Dark Dream, who had been left three wide, were being compromised.
Bowman slipstreamed Purton into the home straight and with 300 metres to run, Furore quickened to the lead as the two front-runners wilted and Dark Dream boxed on. The son of former champion Australian two-year-old galloped on strongly, stopping the clock at 2:01.3s. It was Bowman’s second Hong Kong Derby triumph, three years after he partnered Werther.
Waikuku got going late to take second narrowly from another late closer, Sunny Speed also closed off strongly, missing second by a short-head at odds of 86/1.
Although sired in Australia, Furore is New Zealand-bred, having been born and reared at Haunui Farm when his dam Stormy Choice was sent across the Tasman to be covered by the Australian Guineas winner Ferlax. That ill-fated stallion was owned by GSA Bloodstock’s Jonathan Munz and his first crop includes leading three-year-old filly and fellow GSA Bloodstock-bred Imelda Mary.
Furore was offered in Haunui Farm’s 2016 Karaka Premier Sale draft, where he was knocked down at $210,000 to the Australian Bloodstock/Kris Lees partnership, for whom he finished third in last year’s Gr. 1 Rosehill Guineas before his sale to Hong Kong.