Sanchez shows true form
Rising French star Freddie Sanchez produced two delightful and contrasting rides to notch a Happy Valley double last night and dispel any lingering doubts about his future place in the higher reaches of Hong Kong racing.
Sanchez produced a quality performance on the Bruce Hutchison-trained Red Zone (8-1) to take the second event - a week after being in front of the stewards over the same horse - and followed up 30 minutes later with a pearl of a front-running ride on Harvard (7-1) to seal the twosome.
Red Zone and Colourful Era (10-1) were the last two into the straight on a track riding fast but Sanchez drove the grey Irish import forcefully through the centre to take it up and win solidly.
Last week over 1,000 metres, Red Zone had again been slow into stride and connections were before the stewards - although it is clear that Red Zone is no longer possessed of the early pace that characterised his early Hong Kong runs.
Last night over the longer Valley sprint for Class Two horses, Red Zone was not so inconvenienced coming from behind and Sanchez, not known to panic, rode with a steely calmness that suggests he has a most promising future here.
The former French champion apprentice then made maximum use of Harvard's rails draw in the Class Four, 1,650-metre third event. He broke on top and hugged the rails early, judging the pace to perfection and then kicking on that extra length in the straight that put paid to his pursuers.
Braveheart (10-1) did best of the rest coming home second, 2.25 lengths adrift of the Patrick Biancone-trained winner with the same margin back to third-placed Mr Magic (10-1).
Biancone, still on the fringes of the championship battle, is looking forward to his official liaison with Sanchez next season.
'He is a pleasure to work with because there's always a smile on his face. Yes, he has made mistakes, but who hasn't? He has a lot of natural talent and it is showing through all the time now.
'And he does not hide his mistakes. He is always ready to learn and listen,' said Biancone.
The ever-smiling Sanchez said: 'It takes time to get used to Hong Kong racing and I am still learning. But I am getting a lot of help and I am enjoying it very much.' The night's feature race, the Valley Stakes, is one of the oldest races in the calendar with records showing that there was a similarly-named race in 1847.
This year's renewal went to South China Way (7-1), who was desperately ridden right out by Douglas Whyte to gain the upper hand in the shadows of the post.
Rank outsiders Good Time For All (75-1) and Active Speed (45-1) had it between them at the top of the straight in the Class Three short sprint with Whyte winding up the eventual winner in a bid to get into the race.
It still looked like being Good Time For All, with claimer John C. W. Mok aboard, until South China Way really began to pick up for Whyte and flew over the final stages as the two in front faded slightly.
Whyte said: 'It was really touch and go. We were standing them up quite a bit and South China Way is really better over a longer sprint. But he began to really roll about 150 metres out and I threw everything at him.
'We were flying and I think the one in front was probably beginning to stop.' Champion trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee is not one to change his mind but David Harrison is regularly showing that his departure from Hong Kong racing next season is premature.
He brought home King Of Toys with a whirlwind finish at Sha Tin on Sunday and last night he produced the goods again with Koh-I-Noor (12-1) in the fourth event.
Harrison was poised off the pace set by The Rich Man (7-2 favourite) and Grant Cooksley, who was saying farewell to Hong Kong last night.
Topweight Race To Honour (18-1) was also ready to pounce but it was Harrison, timing his ultimate challenge to perfection, who scored by a neck from the Robbie Fradd-ridden Race To Honour with The Rich Man a head back in third.
Said Harrison: 'I would love to stay in Hong Kong but it is no longer up to me. As far as I am concerned, I will be going about my job and getting as many winners as I can.' Local rider Danny Lee landed the second winner of his final season just three days after his first when reliable Sterling Chance (6-1), prepared by Peter Ng Bik-kuen, took the sixth event.