Yiu beauty! trainer bags double
Triumphant Elfhelm and Happy Kid give mentor a night to remember
Ricky Yiu Poon-fie went into last night's Happy Valley fixture as the only established trainer not to have landed a winner in the new term but stylishly correct that anomaly with an emphatic back-to-back double.
Irish-bred five-year-old Elfhelm broke his duck at the 17th time of asking when he stormed down the centre of the track to take the third event (Class Four, 1,650 metres) under the power driving of Frenchman Olivier Doleuze.
Yiu then completed a double when Happy Kid, superbly handled by Brett Prebble, made every inch of the running in the second division of the Class Four over 1,650m to score by 11/4 lengths from Aurelian (Alex Lai Hoi-wing).
Yiu generously deflected all credit to his winning jockeys, and revealed Doleuze had been quietly confident that Elfhelm could end his long losing sequence.
'Olivier thought the horse went well at his first run back this season, and was a lot stronger this year,' Yiu said. 'The race worked out very nicely for us as the pace up front was a bit stronger than we thought it might have been.
'That brought the horses racing from behind right into calculations, and Olivier brought our horse into the race with beautiful timing. But he also said there was nothing left at the finish, so I'm not getting too carried away.'
Prebble, while grateful for the professional compliment Yiu had sent his way for his piloting of Happy Kid, said the popular local horseman had sold himself short.
'Ricky has done a very good job because Happy Kid wasn't the soundest horse last season, but he's moving very freely at the moment,' Prebble said.
'Today, it looked like a race which lacked a genuine leader so, from an inside barrier [three], it gave us the chance to take the initiative.'
Yiu's 51-1 double was unable to become a triple figure treble, however, when favourite Daneman Hill was run out of a place in the fifth (Class Four, 1,200m) behind another Prebble winner in Euphoric Kid ($166).
Euphoric Kid, who gave trainer David Hall his first Hong Kong winner as a freshman in September last year, was once again at his best when fresh.
'He won that race and then continued to race consistently in Class Four without being able to win another one,' Prebble said. 'This year, David had him possibly even a bit fresher than he'd been last year and it showed in the early stages.
'He was able to take a forward position tonight and maintain it, whereas last year he lost his place when the field quickened at the half way mark.'
Prebble's double, coming on top of his memorable four timer at Sha Tin last Saturday, has catapulted him into second place on the jockeys' table, where he was trailing five-times champion Douglas Whyte by just one winner before the Durban Demon claimed the final event.
Riding Engineering Wonder ($80) for trainer Peter Ho Leung, Whyte executed a perfectly-timed late swoop to claim victory by a head, just when Beauty Plus (Lai) was being hailed the winner.
Engineering Wonder has now won six races from 34 starts and all have been at the city venue.
'He has been a great horse for the stable,' said Ho as he walked off the course. 'Because of his pattern of racing, where he gets well back in the field, he always needs a bit of luck. But he has a good fighting heart and never disappoints us.'
Chris Munce won the second race of his current stint when Fortune Smiles led throughout to win the feature event, the $700,000 Po Leung Kuk Centenary Cup (1,650m).
Munce, whose other win was also for Fortune Smile's trainer John Size, was all smiles as the baldy-faced chestnut returned to scale, having executed Size's gameplan to perfection.
'John said to lead, but to make sure I wasn't sitting there waiting because the favourite Winning Sunshine probably has a better sprint than Fortune Smiles and would beat us if I did that,' Munce explained.
'So I made sure I started to pour on the pressure after passing the 600 metres. You know with a John Size horse that they are very fit and will keep going.'
The decline in betting turnover continued unabated. Despite racing on a good track on a perfect, warm autumn evening, the total handle of $639,290,365 was down 16.6 per cent on last year's gross of $745.3 million.