Better late than never for Zero In
'It took a while to get the leader, but in the end he got there, that's all that matters'
On a biased track where inside barriers were pure gold, jockey Felix Coetzee would happily have swapped barrier two for something much wider with highly fancied front-runner Zero In.
In the end, despite being beaten for the early lead, it all worked out OK as Zero In ($29 favourite) grabbed leader Lifeline in the dying stages and edged clear to score by a neck. But that gold cup containing gate two was almost the poisoned chalice.
'I was in a bit of bother early because he was only fairly away and he takes a while to muster speed,' Coetzee said.
'He's a much better horse from a wider barrier. He takes 200 metres or so to really get his stride going and then he really starts to run.'
However, Thomas Yeung Kai-tong had already seized the initiative on Lifeline Rapide and Coetzee was forced to be patient, following Yeung to the turn and then moving Zero In into the clear.
'It took a while to get the leader, a bit longer than I thought actually, but in the end he got there and I guess that's all that matters,' said Coetzee.
Happy Winning completed a surprisingly lucrative season when he made the Class Four on the all-weather track into a one-horse race.
Although the Tony Millard-trained Silly Boy was clearly preferred to him in the betting, Happy Winning still met with strong late support into $45.50 and backers were always on good terms with themselves.
Happy Winning came to the Paul O'Sullivan yard this season having been winless since September, 2003. From seven starts for O'Sullivan, Happy Winning has won three, as well as registering a second, a third and two fourths, earning a cheque 100 per cent of the time.
Senior local rider Eddie Lai Wai-ming, who had ridden Happy Winning perfectly in all six rides on the chestnut, yesterday made way for 10-pound claimer Marco Chiu Kwan-lai. And after Happy Winning bounced straight to the front, the result was never in doubt.
He might be the best mud-runner in Hong Kong, but it's not a very lucrative area of excellence. So when the circumstances finally fell Industrial Pioneer's way in the final event yesterday, jockey Howard Cheng Yue-tin was not about to make a mistake.
The leading local rider put Industrial Pioneer straight into the box seat, following stablemate Rum Shot.
But in a similar situation to Zero In one race earlier, Industrial Pioneer might have looked likely to win for most of the straight but took all day to actually do it.
'It's very hard to make ground there today,' Cheng said. 'But the one thing with this horse, he's so good on wet ground. He was always travelling very comfortably today, while a lot of other horses were never comfortable in the conditions.'
Industrial Pioneer won the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup on a wet track in 2004, when ridden by Douglas Whyte.
Attendance and turnover were down significantly at yesterday's mixed meeting, with executive director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges finding culprits in the weather and the soccer World Cup.
'I think the World Cup is probably worth a 10 per cent drop in our turnover,' he said. 'Today you have England playing so a lot of people are very interested in that game.
'And of course they wake up and look out the window at a very unpleasant morning we had today and decide they are not interested in betting on the races.'
Even a $13.6 million Triple Trio jackpot couldn't save the betting figures but, while turnover will be down by over 4 per cent at season's end again, racecourse attendances have generally been more resilient.
'But with this kind of wet weather, with more rain predicted during the day, we knew people would not come today,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said.