Relief for Leung as battling Doyle delivers timely double
Diminutive English pilot Brett Doyle has made a big name for himself in Hong Kong and yesterday he showed exactly why with a trademark double for retaining trainer Andy Leung Ting-wah.
The lightweight wonder had been having a quiet time of it by his own high standards, but he bounced back aboard low-grader Toy Baron (4.9-1 second favourite) and the highly consistent Yellow River (3.1-1 favourite) to move into double figures (10) for the season.
Doyle was the riding find of last season, rattling up 41 winners at better than 10 per cent to finish equal fourth with French star Eric Legrix. This season, however, has been a vastly different story with the Leung stable battling to maintain its form.
However, yesterday's winners had plenty to spare on their rivals and the team will be hoping that this is the start of a purple patch.
The pick of the pair was Yellow River's demolition of his Classes One and Two rivals in the Chinese Club Divided Handicap.
One of the more promising graduates of the International Sale, Yellow River had not enjoyed much luck at his previous four starts this campaign.
Sha Tin's six furlongs is his favourite trip - from five starts over the journey he has won two and been runner-up on the three other occasions - and yesterday's small field was tailor-made for him.
Doyle landed the box seat on the fence and snatched a decisive break in the straight to hold off the fast-finishing Kieren Fallon aboard Basic Instinct (4.6-1) and newcomer Prancing Horse (13-1) with Eddie Lai up.
Yellow River had only a neck to spare on the line but he always looked to be holding the swampers. The judge was unable to separate that pair and they dead-heated for a share of second and third money.
That success, Yellow River's third from 11 outings, tipped him just over the $2 million mark in earnings and he would be an asset to any stable.
The first leg of Doyle's double came in less exalted company when Toy Baron finished wide and full of running to lift the Class Six second event over 1,400 metres.
A five-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding, Toy Baron had been knocking at the door his last two starts and delivered on that solid form to chalk up his second win from 23 starts.
He was well back in the early stages and settled kindly for Doyle before being unleashed halfway down the straight.
And when he sprinted he left the field in his wake, suggesting that he will be winning well beyond Class Six.
Winning Luck (10-1) was given every chance by Alan Munro and he rallied well to grab second with Super Boy (7-1) and Eric Saint-Martin having to make do with third.
Meanwhile, top Australian jockey Steven King kept his strike rate ticking over when Daring Steed (6.4-1) trounced his Class Four opponents in the opening leg of the Triple Trio.
King's only concern was the bad barrier (13) but he had the four-year-old Geiger Counter gelding out and running to be perfectly placed behind tearaway pacemakers Handsome Baron and Super Connections on settling.
By the 800-metre mark it was just a matter of who would fill the quinella spot and that was left to well-supported first-starter New Asians (6.7-1), who completed the 1,400 metres with real flair under Wendyll Woods. David Hayes' Cavalo (4.7-1 favourite) ran his usual honest race for Basil Marcus for third position.
And Alan Munro was also among the winners when Flags Up (30-1) shocked punters to take the Class Three mile event.
In a driving finish, Munro came out on top, holding on by a head from favourite Perfect Victory (2.5-1) and Marcus, who had a further short-head to spare over Billion Delight (10-1) and Club Jockey Michael Hills.