Jockeys find their wallets much lighter
'If you put a knife against my heart and pushed it in hard and turned it, I couldn't feel any more pain,' was jockey Eric Legrix's reaction to the $150,000 fine he copped after his winning ride on Convergence yesterday.
It was the first leg of a winning owner's double for Legrix but he was numbed to the celebration after being fined. 'That's very tough,' he said. 'I would much rather have done the days.'
But stewards weren't issuing suspensions on the last day of the season and Legrix was not alone. South African Anton Marcus scored a treble for the season's close but found himself on the wrong side of the law and $120,000 lighter after stewards took umbrage at his riding on the first of his three winners, Star Of Wah Yan.
Marcus was back in the next race getting a soft lead to steer Sir Timah to a dogged win in the Sandberg Gold Cup over 1,200 metres. Trainer David Hill said it was not out of turn for Sir Timah, who had raced well without luck in recent weeks.
'He's had no luck from awkward draws lately so the inside gate made the difference,' Hill said. 'It was not a strong race, closer to Class Five than Class Four, and when Anton was able to control the speed like that he had something left when Speedy Champion came at him.'
Marcus wound up the day with Winning Boy in the season's last but still hadn't quite come to terms with the fine. 'I certainly needed to ride three after that,' Marcus said.
Talented barrier rogue Northern Gold Ball used his get-out-of-jail-free card yesterday and will have a reprieve from compulsory retirement until the new term. Trainer Wong Tang-ping acknowledged that the horse has been a problem in the gates but told stewards the gelding was not in any way dangerous and felt the horse's problems could be rectified with sufficient work.
After witnessing two better efforts through the gates in trials this past week, starter Philip Waldron supported Wong's view that Northern Gold Ball was improving with practice.
The horse will have to perform well in two consecutive barrier trials to be allowed to resume racing, but the stipes demanded an assurance from Wong that he would retire Northern Gold Ball if he were to perform badly at the start again.
The other stewards' inquiry into the severe bleeding attack suffered by Triumphant Smile after the three-horse fall race two weeks ago did not end quite so happily. Club vet Dr Keith Watkins gave evidence that 'it was impossible because of the circumstances to tell the exact nature and the extent of the internal injury' and that it was impossible 'to predict the effect that such damage to the lungs would have on Triumphant Smile and more importantly its ability to again compete in races safely'.
Stewards decided that the horse could not be regarded as a sound proposition and ordered his retirement.
Singapore's pride, Jumat Saimee, made the most of his busman's holiday in Hong Kong when he turned Lucky Stallion's formline positive in the Wong Cup over 1,600 metres.
Saimee had been imported by the Jockey Club to fill the breach when a wave of suspensions and injuries left it short on riders for the last three meetings of the season but it was a fruitless trip until the third-last race. 'That was nice - I needed a winner,' the rider said on his return to scale.
'It's great to ride here but riding a winner is what it's about and I left it fairly late.'
It was some consolation for trainer Alex Wong Siu-tan, who missed out in the deceptive finish to the opening race with Top Fit but got Lucky Stallion home - his last runner for the term.
'My last runner and last winner. This season my results were just OK but I will have a lot of good young horses next year and I guarantee it will be better,' he said and he wasn't leaving Lucky Stallion out of that.
The three-year-old had not had much luck at his first two outings and was a little wide again yesterday but had the talent to overcome it. 'He should have won the other day when he was pushed off the track,' Wong said. 'But anyway he has done it now and I think he's going to be better at 1,800 metres or 2,000 metres.'
'I'm the Photo King,' declared trainer Alex Wong Yu-on after taking the large end of the prize with Tim's Tonic after a lengthy camera on the Saunders Trophy over 1,400 metres.
'You can talk about the cigar king or the quinella king but I'm the Photo King,' Wong said. 'About 11 seasons ago, I had a terrible year with seconds, I had 28 seconds and 17 of them in photos. This year, I have got them all back - I think that is the 17th photo-finish winner I've had this season.'
Opinions remained divided on the photo-finish between Tim's Tonic (Eddie Lai) and Top Fit (Tony Culhane) even after the slow-motion television pictures, and the hard copy of the print Wong was waving later showed just how desperate the finish had been. 'That really is a nose there,' he said, shaking his head and smiling. 'That's just luck when you win like that, isn't it?'