Rookie revelation Yip gives Kan 'good face'
Dennis Yip Chor-hong continued an amazing rookie season and received a glowing endorsement from his former boss, Brian Kan Ping-chee, when he completed a winning double yesterday with horses at polar opposites of the punting spectrum.
Yip's opener was a 64-1 blowout for punters in the third race, with Prizes Treasure giving the young trainer a win that will prove one of his best advertisements - a badly broken-down horse who won at his first start after a 17-month rehabilitation.
He completed a satisfying day at the office when favourite Main Attraction, handled by Howard Cheng (who also completed a double), stormed down the centre of the track to make it back-to-back wins in the eighth event, a Class Three over 1,600 metres.
The double took Yip to 23 wins in his debut season and has provided 'good face' to more people than just Kan - his success (and that of fellow rookie Sean Woods) has been a ringing endorsement of the Jockey Club's refinements of their trainer selection processes.
Late in the day, Kan chimed in with a winner of his own, when Ambitious Tycoon (Douglas Whyte) produced another storming finish in one of the favoured wide lanes to take the 10th race (Class One, 1,600 metres), showing no signs of tiredness after chasing home champion Electronic Unicorn at a respectful distance of 3.25 lengths in last Sunday's Group One Champions Mile.
Kan will be calling it a day at the end of the season, having reached the mandatory retirement age. As he approaches the sunset of a brilliant career, which has yielded more than 850 Hong Kong winners and five trainers' championships, he's a man of few regrets.
'I'm too old, I'm a no-good trainer,' he said, with a hard-to-read tongue in cheek. However, his final season has been quiet by his extraordinary standards - Ambitious Tycoon was only his 17th winner. 'Last season, I gave a lot of my horses to Dennis Yip because if he is successful, it's good face for me,' he explained. And Yip's progress is making the old boss very proud.
Will Ambitious Tycoon join the exodus to the Yip yard at season's end? The answer seems obvious, but Kan didn't become fabulously wealthy and successful doing the obvious. 'Maybe . . . it's up to me,' he added.
Yip's first winner, Prizes Treasure, was something of a ratings rarity - a horse who had dropped to Class Five at only his fourth racecourse appearance. But according to the trainer, he's very lucky to be seeing a racecourse at all.
'He was originally with Wong Tang-ping [who retired last season] and has the worst tendon injury you'd ever see,' Yip explained.
'It's taken a long time and a lot of work to get him back, but you don't expect them to win first-up after such a long time.'
One who found it particularly galling was leading jockey Douglas Whyte, who had given favourite Timber City every conceivable chance, while Alex Yu charted a wide course on Prizes Treasure after starting from gate 14.
While Yu's mount kept going with surprising strength after the hard first-up run to give the jockey his fourth victory for the season, Timber City turned in another one-paced effort to register a no-excuses second.
Yip's second winner, Main Attraction, came from the yard of Alex Wong Siu-tan and, as a well-bred three-year-old (by Last Tycoon from the Woodman mare Hayizah), was a much more welcome arrival than Prizes Treasure.
'This horse is a gentleman, he's very good,' Yip said. 'He's very relaxed but very strong and when he goes, he can finish very hard. His last win here was much the same, getting a long way back, but he has a very big finish.'
Yip admitted satisfaction with his first-season performance but at the same time revealed a level of discomfort with the pressure that is part and parcel of the job.
'Yes, I'm happy, but this is big pressure,' he said. 'Just recently, I went one month without a winner and suddenly all the owners are wanting to know what's gone wrong. It's not easy.'