French champion in surprise win
Peslier gets trophy despite wide, wide run by Classa Supreme
Champion French jockey Olivier Peslier shrugged off the late scratching of one of his mounts and mastered the severe hanging tendency of another to score an improbable victory in last night's Cathay Pacific International Jockeys Championship at Happy Valley.
Peslier landed the second of the three-race series on (7-1) Classa Supreme after a hair-raising ride on the front-running chestnut, who looked like joining the crowd in the beer garden when he ran off on the home turn, but still maintained a relentless gallop to score by 11/4 lengths.
With Australia's Glen Boss having won the opening race with Harry Harry (HK$125.50 for HK$210) and Austria's Andreas Suborics landing the final leg on Fortune Warrior (HK$273.50), the series was ultimately decided on Peslier's fifth placing on an ultra-humble beast called Specific Sorcerer in the opening encounter, giving him 14 points. Boss and Suborics were declared dead-heaters for second with 12 points. Japan's Yutaka Take also scored 12 points in minor placings but was deemed to have run fourth behind the three race-winners.
Peslier, one of the world's great jockeys, has been a regular competitor in the IJC and said he was thrilled to finally win one.
'It is a great competition between some of the best riders in the world and it is always fun to take part,' Peslier said. 'But after competing for a number of years, I'm thrilled to have finally won one.'
He recalled how Classa Supreme's trainer, Peter Ho Leung, had advised him of the Classa Supreme's tendency to hang when giving instructions in the paddock beforehand. 'But I didn't expect he'd do what he did - I figured he just wanted to be with all the people in the grandstand,' the Frenchman joked. 'I was almost wide enough to lean over and get a beer myself.'
Peslier said his problems started early, when Classa Supreme went to the front but did not want to go near the inside fence. 'He was two and three horses off the fence all the way, so rather than try to fight him and make him irritated, I chose to let him run along,' he continued.
'On the turn, his hanging just got worse. My major concern at that point was that there were no jockeys immediately behind me, that I might have interfered with. The stewards gave us a lecture beforehand that they wanted good, clean racing and I didn't want to be the one making a mess of things. Fortunately, he was well clear when he really hung badly and the other jockeys had all the room in the world to go up inside me.'
A local TV interviewer later demanded to know why Peslier could not keep his mount straight and the Frenchman was forthright in reply. 'I weigh 50kg, the horse weighs 500kg. He goes where he likes.'
Suborics, a former Hong Kong club jockey, said winning the final leg on Andy Leung Ting-wah's Fortune Warrior was a pleasant surprise. 'When I looked at my mounts after the draw on Monday, I thought it might be difficult to get any money,' he said with a smile, 'but of the three horses, this was the one with some nice Happy Valley form and he was clearly the best of them.'