Fortune smiles on Spencer - for once

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 December, 2003, 12:00am

Top Irish rider Jamie Spencer was on the right side of the stewards' panel for a change yesterday, claiming a winner on protest and showing plenty of character as he headed off to start another careless riding ban.

Spencer commences his four-day suspension today, but picked up a few holiday expenses winning on Prince Golf for Dennis Yip Chor-hong yesterday after being second past the post to Fantastic Star in the sixth.

Prince Golf had gone for a run between Fantastic Star (Weichong Marwing) and the leader Everest at the 200-metre mark, but no sooner had he gone into the run than it closed on him.

The son of the former Hong Kong Cup winner, Romanee Conti, Prince Golf had to check back and around the winner, then ran him to a half-length margin the stewards felt was narrow enough to be sure the gelding would have won the race.

'I'm sure it was the right decision. I would have won by a good half-length or a length if my fella had a clear run,' Spencer said later.

The young Irishman was not originally due to commence his stint in Hong Kong until tomorrow but arrived early when the Jockey Club was running short on jockeys due to injuries and suspensions last month, and he has been rewarded with a roller-coaster ride since.

Spencer received a three-day careless riding ban in his first meeting then returned last Wednesday to win a race, only to find himself with another four-day suspension, which commences today.

'I thought I was a bit unlucky not to win a second race on Winning Sunshine. If I'd been where the winner was, I'd have won for sure,' he said, but admitted Winning Sunshine had shifted ground down the straight, too. 'The stewards had a little word to me, but they saw I was trying to straighten him so I was not in any trouble.

'I'm certainly pleased to get through the meeting without another ban. Of course, it's annoying to get done. I've had a winner on Wednesday, a winner today which could have been two and I've got a bit of momentum going and attracting a bit of attention. By the time I come back after four meetings, it's like, you're nobody and starting again.' For all of that, though, Spencer is viewing Hong Kong racing as a key learning experience to help in his recent appointment as the number one rider for one of the world's leading stables, that of Aidan O'Brien.

'I enjoy riding here, the challenge is fantastic and it does sharpen your mind. It's tight and things happen quickly, so you have to think quickly. You don't get a second chance. In the UK, with 800-metre straights, you can get stopped and still win,' Spencer said.

'With the short straights and tight racing here, you can't stop and then get going again. You have to ride with fewer mistakes here to succeed and I think there's no better training.

'When you go around the world riding against the Americans in Breeders Cups and things like that, they are out of the gates like a rocket and doing everything so quickly, and I think it's one of the things that has come against the riders from the UK competing overseas in recent years.'