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Image: HKJC

Exactly 10 years to the day since Little Bridge’s famous Royal Ascot win for Hong Kong, trainer Danny Shum has the chance to commemorate the occasion with victory in the HK$3.7 million G3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (19 June).

Trained by Shum, ridden by Zac Purton and owned by Ko Kam Piu, Little Bridge soared to an almighty win in the 2012 G1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) – a second victory at the royal meeting for Hong Kong after Cape Of Good Hope claimed the 2005 G1 Golden Jubilee Stakes (1200m) for trainer David Oughton when the meeting was transferred to York.

Winning at Royal Ascot was a dream for Shum but it wasn’t his first excursion to Great Britain after previous campaigns with Indigenous and Firebolt for his then boss, Ivan Allan.

“I used to take horses with Mr Allan. I wanted to win for him – I went to Ascot with Indigenous and Firebolt.

“The prize money wasn’t too much but it wasn’t for that, it was to have Hong Kong and Chinese names in the record books at Royal Ascot – my name, the owners name and Zac’s name – it’s glory that money cannot buy,” Shum said.

Indigenous took on the 1999 G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (2400m) but failed to fire in sixth, while Firebolt was ninth in the 2003 G2 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) behind Choisir.

But nine years later and in his first trip to Royal Ascot as a fully-fledged trainer, Shum would strike a memorable and crucial success with Little Bridge.

“It was very important – owners see that if you can win overseas, especially an international Group 1, that means you’ve proven yourself, you’ve shown something and they love to then give you good horses to train and support you – it’s very important,” Shum said.

Little Bridge went into the King’s Stand Stakes having won the HKG3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) and HKG2 Sprint Cup (1200m) – both times with Purton aboard at Sha Tin.

“He was very good, we looked after him very well, the whole team – even my wife, we had four people to look after one horse,” Shum said. “After his last gallop, I thought he could win. I galloped him and I told Zac that he gave me a really good feeling.”

Little Bridge defied a strong field including Sole Power, Bated Breath and Ortensia, while in the race he was not the only representative from Hong Kong along with Derek Cruz’s Joy And Fun, who finished midfield.

“He was very happy and healthy – Zac rode a very good race,” Shum said.

This Sunday Shum has two chances to land the Premier Plate with Tourbillon Diamond and Butterfield at Sha Tin.

“He’s (Tourbillon Diamond) ok, it’s been a long and tough season for him – it’s really tough. But he’s ok and it depends on the draw and pace, he’ll need a bit of luck,” Shum said.

Tourbillon Diamond has raced 10 times this term with his biggest scalp coming in the 2021 G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) last November.

Butterfield has twice placed at Group 3 level this term and last start faded to seventh in the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) in May.

“Butterfield worked very well on Tuesday (14 June), comparing the two, they’re very close, so it depends on the draw and pace but they’re in good health,” Shum said.

Tourbillon Diamond (132lb) pairs with Alexis Badel from gate seven, while Butterfield (121lb) steps away from draw 11 with Zac Purton.

Ka Ying Star (133lb), Excellent Proposal (126lb), Columbus County (124lb), Turin Redsun (113lb) and Berlin Tango (113lb) also feature in the 11-runner contest.

Shum, 61, has enjoyed a fine season with 43 wins, thanks largely to the heroics of Romantic Warrior who will be prepared for a 2022 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) tilt.

“I expect he will have a run in October then in November and then into the Hong Kong International Races – he’ll face the 2000 metres of the Hong Kong Cup,” Shum said.

Bought out of the 2021 Hong Kong International Sale for HK$4.8 million, Romantic Warrior won seven out of eight starts this season, including the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m), BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) and G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m).

“I think he can stay 2400 metres but the races aren’t there to prepare him in Hong Kong, especially early on in the season. Overseas horses have a lot of races, so they can handle the trip easier,” Shum said.

Sunday’s (19 June) 10-race fixture at Sha Tin kicks off at 1pm with the Class 5 Ruby Handicap (2000m) and also features the HK$3.7 million G3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m).

 
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