Young gun Tong on the money
Apprentice turns to strongarm tactics to keep Mosse in check, and secure tough win on Fast Track
Apprentice Jacky Tong Chi-kit came of age at Happy Valley last night, showing courage and strength beyond his years to strongarm top senior rider Gerald Mosse back into a pocket and thereby land a massive gamble on his mount, Fast Track.
Tong earned warm praise from his allocated trainer, Caspar Fownes, for the determination he showed in shoving Mosse on favourite Military Option back to the rails some 800 metres from home, when failure to do so would have been the end of Fast Track's chances.
Tong would have been unaware there was even greater drama off the track, with a last-minute plunge on his mount ripping some HK$6.8 million out of the tote pool, as Fast Track firmed from $130 to $67.50 under the weight of a HK$1 million investment within the last 45 seconds of betting.
'Jacky is really starting to get there,' Fownes said proudly.
'That moment down the back straight was quite something, and it's not the sort of stuff you expect from apprentices. Usually they are too intimidated by the senior riders but Jacky held his nerve and wasn't overawed. He's just said, '.Ssorry Gerald, back to the rail you go' and forced him back to the rails.'
If Mosse had his way as he attempted to come off the rail on Military Option, Fast Track would have been forced three wide and the race would have been over for the well-backed commodity. Instead, he was able to maintain his line and track up behind the well-fancied Brilliant One, handled by fellow apprentice Thomas Yeung Kai-tong.
In the straight, the two young local horsemen peeled to the outside into clear running but it was Fast Track, with a whopping 19 pound advantage, that was able to gain the ascendancy narrowly in the final strides.
That victory means Fownes has trained at least one winner at all bar one Happy Valley programme this season.
Francis Lui Kin-wai was looking confidently to the future after Easy ($58) withstood a determined lunge from favourite Windicator (Douglas Whyte) to land the Kennedy Handicap for Class Three sprinters at 1,200 metres.
Irish-bred Easy has been a revelation at his past two starts, emerging from relative obscurity to stamp himself as a sprinter of some promise, this time with the aid of a nicely-timed ride from Howard Cheng Yue-tin.
'Howard told me the horse still wants to go a bit keenly, so it was a good effort to keep on so strongly and hold off Douglas's horse,' Lui said.
'I was thinking that if he wants to race that fiercely, maybe we should drop him back to 1,000 metres to help him settle better. But on second thought, racing experience should cure him of that. The more experience he gets, the better he'll settle.'
Easy had scored at odds of 58-1 at the January 10 meeting but punters had to settle for 10 per cent of that dividend last night despite the nine-point lift in the ratings.
Lui completed a double, with just five runners at the meeting, when Lucky Money scored a runaway victory in the final event, the Queen's Road East Handicap over 1,650 metres.
Brett Prebble ensured the Marju five-year-old enjoyed the run of the race, in third position on the rails, behind playmaker Classa Supreme (Alex Lai Hoi-wing).
As Classa Supreme wobbled off the track in the home straight - just as he had done for Olivier Peslier in the second leg of the International Jockeys Championship on December 6 - Prebble gave Lucky Money full bore and gave nothing else a chance in the run home.
Prebble had scored earlier on Liberal's Choice for John Size, and the double saw him leapfrog Olivier Doleuze into second position on the jockeys' premiership with 37 winners. He now trails reigning champion Douglas Whyte by just seven.