Gift presents Gibson with a winner
Punters were in no mood to look a gift horse in the mouth on a lacklustre card at Happy Valley last night, with Gift Is Gift the only favourite to score in the final race after being smashed down in the betting.
Gift Is Gift (Olivier Doleuze) trimmed down sharply from 4.7 in the early stages of betting to start 2.6 favourite and gave his backers not even a moment's worry, box-seated before running away for a two-length success at his second run since transferring from Almond Lee to Richard Gibson.
'He had a bit too much to do from the wide gate at Sha Tin when he ran second the first time out for me, but I wasn't surprised to see him win like that from a soft draw,' said Gibson, who took himself to 34 wins for his freshman year. 'Gift Is Gift has been a thorough professional since he arrived, had no problems and he's a nice physical specimen. I think he can win again this season.'
Gift Is Gift was probably the only real takeaway for the future from a night when training honours went to Caspar Fownes, winning a sixth race at the Valley with Victory Mascot in the 2,200m Class Four and following up half an hour later with Dream Builder (Mark du Plessis) breaking his duck. 'I've tried him at the mile the last two and got too keen but he wasn't beaten far. He's a late maturer, the mile is going to suit next season when he has settled into this environment better,' said Fownes. 'Still, those runs toughened him up, so coming back to 1,200m tonight I was happy for Mark to lead and make them try to run him down.
'Victory Mascot, well, what can you say? He's won eight races now, four of these 2,200m races here and he's done a great job for a horse who will never be a star but pays his bills.'
Toughness and consistency seemed to be the by words for the night, with trainer Dennis Yip Chor-hong taking the night's Class Three feature with Jimson The Best (Tye Angland), a horse who was once maligned as a non-winner.
The gelding's Ta Kung Pao 110th Anniversary Cup win was his third this term at his eighteenth start for the season. 'He's an iron horse. Very consistent,' Yip acknowledged.
Trainer Gary Ng Ting-keung was warned on Monday that the licensing committee would be seeking a written explanation of his form if he failed to meet the Jockey Club performance benchmark by season's end but he inched one closer when Novel Start (Keith Yeung Ming-lun) landed a plunge in the fourth. Backed from double figures down to odds of 5.5, Novel Start began quickly from the outside, crossed to lead under his light weight and just kept running.
Ng went to 12 wins - one short of the benchmark - while it wrapped up a winning double for Yeung, who had won on low-rated Young Supreme for his old boss, Almond Lee, in the second, and it has probably saved the horse's career for another year.
Young Supreme has improved out of sight since a move to Lee mid-season from Andy Leung Ting-wah and the trainer believes it has been a change of attitude, on the human side, that has made the difference.
'His previous trainer raced him as a sprinter, and even when he came to me he could show speed in a trial in the mornings, but he is not a sprinter,' Lee said. 'I think he's a typical Irish private purchase and taken some time and he has enjoyed jumping up to a mile since he joined my stable. I'm happy to save him for next year and I expect he will be able to win a race or two for me in Class Five, at the mile or maybe even 1,800m.'
Andy Leung did manage to get a score on the board himself though, winning the opening Class Five sprint with Bless Us All (Derek Leung Ka-chun).