Delpech warms up in style for the QE II Cup with hard-fought treble
South African rider Anthony Delpech will head into Sunday's Audemars Piguet QE II Cup on a high with Vengeance Of Rain after landing a brilliant three-timer at Happy Valley last night as his tune-up. With inside barriers to the fore as usual on the C course, Delpech used his luck at the draw to good effect on Chater De Lago and Kingsgate Glory, who both had the pole position, but the boot was on the other foot as he scrambled a dead-heat on Grand Commands in the night's feature from barrier 12.
'I made the decision before the race to go forward and try to lead despite the wide gate because I know this horse well and he just doesn't go if you take a sit,' said Delpech, who had been aboard in four of the Alex Wong Yu-on-trained gelding's five previous victories. 'I thought I'd lead if I could and if they kicked up under me then I'd sit outside whatever led but I wasn't going anywhere but forward.'
With blistering speed, Delpech was able to clear Dragon And Gold to find the rail in the lead but Grand Commands never got the luxury of a breather so his effort to hold on for a half share of the Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Challenge Cup with Ricky Yiu Poon-fie's first starter Harb (Jacky Tong Chi-kit) was admirable.
'He worked hard and I think he could have won clearly if he'd drawn where the other horse did,' Delpech said. 'It's a shame that he's had problems because he has got some talent but his injuries keep him limited now. The cut in the ground tonight certainly helped.'
Delpech reported that the Dubai Sheema Classic winner, Vengeance Of Rain, was feeling good in his work and he expects him to take some beating as he aims for Group One number seven and QE II Cup number two in Sunday's big event.
'I thought in Dubai he probably felt better than at any time I'd been on him before, so the hard part is keeping him at that level and he probably isn't quite as good now,' said Delpech, but he refused to open the door to any hopeful rivals and quickly clarified the situation. 'But even so, I would say he feels as good as he ever did with exception of Dubai and definitely on a par with where he was when he won all the big races here before.'
Delpech managed to squeeze out a win for the Vengeance Of Rain connection last night, with the David Ferraris-trained Chater De Lago managing to snag his Hong Kong maiden win in the third.
'Inside draws were a plus all night and probably that was the key to him winning,' Delpech said. 'But the other winner, Kingsgate Glory, probably had a little bit on the field in his race.
'He had gate one and they left us alone in front but he won with something in hand.'
The John Moore-trained Famous Dancer (Eric Saint-Martin) turned in the performance of the night as he once again transformed certain defeat into a victory over the 1,800m - his fourth win at the course.
Still well off the leaders past the 200m mark, Famous Dancer simply exploded late to take the Class One contest in the last stride.
'Horses for courses,' Moore said. 'The way the track was playing towards leaders tonight I really didn't think he could win but he has got a great turn of foot around here.
'The soft ground helps him and I suppose he could even win at Sha Tin if he got a soft track but he needs a bit of a break after this.'
Stewards went on the warpath over careless riding on the night, with championship contender Olivier Doleuze one of three to get bans from the panel. Doleuze was put out for two days and fined HK$40,000 for causing interference on Sparkle in the second event, while Simon Yim Hin-keung received a two-day ban and HK$10,000 fine for his ride in the opener on Optic King.
Apprentice Marco Chiu Kwan-lai also caught a two-day suspension and HK$10,000 fine for causing trouble on Packing Angel in race five.
Yim's ban begins immediately but both Doleuze and Chui will ride on Sunday then Tuesday before commencing their penalties.