Double delight as Clark beats his own target
Australian Tim Clark had already exceeded his own expectations in his rookie season, and a double yesterday - including his first win for a local trainer - catapulted him into the top 10 of the jockeys' championship.
Victories on Ice Fire for Gary Ng Ting-keung and then John Moore's First In Command propelled Clark to ninth place with 26 wins, with two meetings remaining for the term.
'If you had said to me at the start of the season that I was going to ride at least 26 winners in my first season then I would have been more than happy,' Clark said. 'I'd set my sights on between 20 to 25 winners, so to get past that is a really good achievement and something I am really proud of.'
Clark had formerly made a name for himself in the tough Sydney ranks riding for a wide variety of stables, and has reprised that role to some degree at Sha Tin - at least with expat trainers. But the 25-year-old's win on Ice Fire had added significance as it was his first for a local operation.
'I've been riding for a few stables but it is important to ride for as many trainers as possible, and I just missed on a couple of Me Tsui's horses today as well,' he said.
'Over the season I have ridden for most of the trainers, and hopefully I can build on those relationships next season.'
Ice Fire's victory helped Ng to the 13-win benchmark and the trainer said it all came down to a low draw for his battling six-year-old, with gate two providing options for Clark.
'He'd been running good races, but has just been beaten by the draw,' Ng said. 'He is a genuine Class Five horse - from a bad draw he comes close, from a good draw he wins.'
Starting the term in Class Two, First In Command's rating had already dropped 20 points and he pulled up sore after being well-beaten in a special-conditions race at Happy Valley last start.
'If he didn't perform today he was probably staring at retirement,' Moore admitted.
Those plans have been shelved after the five-year-old pinged the gates to cross from barrier 10 on his dirt debut, then led all the way in a slick time of 1.08.58 - albeit it on an all-weather track running hot because of rain earlier in the day.
'Now, not only will he not retire, he'll have plenty of dirt racing in front of him next season,' Moore added. 'He's got flat feet and has had a lot of problems, but I hoped that the bit of cushion on the all-weather might help, and I'm sure this surface was the telling factor today. We know he has always had great gate speed, so I just said to Tim to use it and the horse just kept running. He's been impressive and done it in good time.'
Clark said a thorough pre-race warm-up had both switched his mount on and helped loosen the gelding's troublesome joints.
'He can be a bit stiff in his action sometimes,' said Clark. 'I freed him up going round and kept him on the go to keep him sharp. He flew the gates and definitely appreciated that surface. He had to work hard early but around the bend I was able to back off a little bit, he always travelled like the winner. When he kicked after straightening, the way he felt, I knew they would have had to be good to catch him.'