Precision timing for relieved Oughton as Kinane makes Derby switch
Michael Kinane, the world's most successful jockey last year, will be the new rider for Precision in Sunday's $14 million Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin, while in-form Eric Saint-Martin replaces the Irishman on Jeune King Prawn.
And Weichong Marwing, who is due to ride likely Derby favourite Olympic Express, yesterday reported a clean bill of health and said he would be back at Happy Valley tomorrow night after missing the past two meetings through illness.
The ride on Precision became available on Saturday after original booking Simon Yim Hin-keung was hit by a five-meeting ban which ruled him out of the big race. And, after discussing the possibilities with owner Wu Sai-wing, trainer David Oughton was quick to renew the partnership with Kinane which saw the pair land the 1996 Derby with Che Sara Sara.
'I had originally said to the owner that Michael had shown interest in riding Precision. When the field was announced last week, I offered him Kinane or Yim as his jockey and he decided on Simon,' Oughton said. 'But when he was suspended, I went back to the owner and said I thought we might still be able to get Michael.
'It was terrible luck for Simon, but the horse is well and I'm very relieved that we were able to get a jockey of Kinane's standing so late in the piece. Everything is back in order.'
Kinane's form in the majors has never been better after plundering 18 Group Ones on both sides of the Atlantic last year for Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O'Brien, and he will be bidding for a third Derby win to add to his successes on Che Sara Sara and Sound Print in 1992 for Brian Kan Ping-chee.
Jeune King Prawn had been touted as a possible Derby favourite until his last-start defeat by Olympic Express in the Classic Mile under Kinane. Jeune King Prawn's trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fie said yesterday the Irishman's late switch could have left him in a difficult position and he was delighted to have secured Eric Saint-Martin to take his place.
'Michael Kinane rang on Sunday to tell me and I am a little disappointed that he would get off my horse like that so close to the race,' Yiu said. 'But there is nobody in better form than Eric. Five winners in the last two meetings. He is the most lucky jockey in Hong Kong right now, so maybe he will be good for Jeune King Prawn.'
Saint-Martin looked to be without a ride in this year's Derby when Felix Coetzee replaced him on the John Moore-trained Goggles, but he was quick to approach Yiu after learning of Kinane's move. 'It is much better to have any ride than to watch the race in the jockeys' room and this is a good ride,' Saint-Martin said yesterday. 'I have won most of the big races here, but the Derby is missing.'
The Frenchman linked with Jeune King Prawn for the first time yesterday morning and came away impressed. 'I worked him 1,500 metres and it was very good,' he said.
'People say he might not stay the Derby distance but, now that I have ridden him, I don't see why not. Anyway, most of these horses have a question over them regarding the 2,000 metres. Sure, there are two or three horses very hard to beat, but I think Jeune King Prawn can be a chance in the race, too.'
Four of Saint-Martin's recent winners were on mounts from which Marwing had been forced to stand down through illness. But Marwing, who has missed out on five winners in the past two meetings, said he was feeling much better after returning to trackwork yesterday.
'It was like a combination of a cold and cough and the flu all rolled into one,' the South African said. 'I didn't feel well enough to leave my apartment for four days. But it is much better now, I rode work this morning and felt OK and I expect it will be gone by Wednesday. I was starting to get a bit worried with the Derby coming up.
'As for missing the winners, I'm still pleased they won for the owners and trainers involved and for Eric. They obviously weren't meant for me and it's good that they did him some good when he needed it.'
Marwing will ride at Happy Valley tomorrow night but has limited himself to four rides. 'I just want to pace myself while I'm getting back to full strength, and I probably won't take a full book of rides on Sunday either, but I will be fit to ride and that's the main thing,' he said.