Successive Gains throws open million chase
'It may have looked like I left it late but I was always confident,' says Whyte
A spectacular win by Successive Gains last night for trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung threw the gates open again for the Happy Valley Million Challenge as he and Australian jockey Craig Williams ignored the cold to run sizzling hot at Happy Valley.
Successive Gains (Douglas Whyte) came from the clouds to storm past perennial bridesmaid King Of Fish in the final race and surge to equal second in the Million Challenge in the race many thought might confirm Fruity Fruity as the winner.
But Fruity Fruity faded to finish in seventh while Successive Gains arrived in the nick of time to win.
'I wouldn't hear of Fruity Fruity beating my horse tonight back to 1800 metres,' said Whyte. 'And especially with the jar just out of the track - he has a tremendous turn of foot when the surface is like it was tonight. It may have looked like I left it late but I was always confident he would pick them up.'
Man took three for the night but even that couldn't compare to Williams' evening as he blitzed through the card with four victories from five rides.
In two of the four wins Williams linked with Man - on 97-1 blowout first-starter Happy Master in the opening event and Flying Success in the fifth - and added plunge winner High Price for David Hall and The World Of Love for Caspar Fownes to equal the jockey's biggest haul at a Hong Kong meeting.
Williams' greatest feats in the saddle are usually accompanied by a visit to town by a relative but his visitor for last night's success was one step removed.
'Yes, usually I only have a day or night like this when my Dad arrives or someone else from my family,' Williams smiled, but he had part of the story up his sleeve.
'Another jockey from Melbourne, Vlad Duric, who did his apprenticeship with me in my Dad's stable lived with our family for years so he qualifies - and he's in town for a few days visiting at the moment.'
Williams' backers certainly saw the highs and lows of the punting game, with Happy Master thoroughly ignored in the betting and High Price the subject of the biggest successful plunge this season.
High Price had been at 25-1 only an hour before the fourth race but was the subject of sustained support until finally smashed down to just under 8-1 at start time.
Williams took him forward outside the leader Capabel early, settled him and left enough in the tank to fend off late-charging Just Too Good in the final stages.
'David just told me to ride my race and my plan was to go forward from the wide gate to get in and fortunately I was able to get over and High Price dropped his head,' Williams said. 'It's nice for David. He's been able to improve this horse virtually every run this season and I have to thank Brett Prebble - he couldn't ride the horse because of the light weight but he gave me plenty of pointers into the horse's characteristics.'
Hall said he had been fairly confident of a good run from High Price provided the horse got around Happy Valley.
'It was hard for me to be too confident first time here but I didn't think he'd done too badly at Sha Tin last time and that was behind Very Fit and looked good form, which was confirmed on the weekend,' he said.
Man said Happy Master had had a few minor troubles on the way to his first start last night, pulling up shin sore after his first trial then scoping with mucus in his trachea after his second.
'But he has shown some ability and to win his first start in good time like that tonight means he has some promise,' he said.
Jockey Glyn Schofield was stood down from his other rides after being tipped off Amicable at the start of the third. The horse was later declared a non-runner.