Wong's Grand night at Valley
RACING Alan Aitken
Veteran trainer bags top prize with a runaway victory
Alex Wong Yu-on indulged himself in a little graveyard humour while Olivier Doleuze was keeping his dream alive as best he could when Grand Commands strolled in with the South China Morning Post Cup (1,200m) at Happy Valley last night.
'I hope this means I will get the South China Morning Post delivered free for the rest of my life,' cheered the winning trainer Wong, but then added a macabre twist to the quip alluding to his serious cancer scare of a couple of seasons ago.
'Anyway, that will probably only be two months so the South China Morning Post will get a cheap deal.'
On a night with crowd and betting figures sharply up, the Post played host to the Class Three sprint feature which saw Grand Commands go one step better than his dead-heat over the same course last time out when the five-year-old had to work hard early to lead before fading right on the line.
Last night, from gate seven, Doleuze had an easier time getting the Commands gelding to the fence, especially after his main rival for the front, Rainbow Oasis, again made a mess of the start.
With the track favouring frontrunners all night, it was simply a procession with Grand Commands posting a victory that was too easy for the likings of the trainer and jockey.
'I like these Commands horses. I've done very well with Yellow Diamond by the same sire and now this one is going well for me,' Wong said. 'Of course he won five races for Peter Ng before I got him, so he has been a smart horse before I trained him but all trainers go through that in Hong Kong. It's a merry go round.
'If he hadn't won by so far tonight, I feel sure there would have been another win left in him for the season but after a big margin like that, the handicapper might put him up too much and he will be in Class Two. Then the only chance for him is a very wet track.
'I was a bit concerned tonight even coming back from the soft ground last time to a firm track tonight because this horse had surgery for some serious leg problems last summer before he came to me and a hard track is not ideal.'
As for Doleuze, his lone winner moved him one closer to a winless Douglas Whyte in the jockeys' championship, which tightened up again with Brett Prebble (Optic King) scoring as well.
'It is easier to manage when you are coming from behind to win, so I hope I haven't cost Grand Commands another win by beating them so far,' Doleuze said. 'But every winner counts and it is better not to take chances on leaders - that's how you get surprised if they suddenly get tired.
'I was only sorry that I was just beaten on the line in the last race - Perfect Feeling went everywhere I wanted to go, exactly when I wanted to go and it couldn't have been better but she just found another too good.'
Doleuze surely deserved a better fate for his ride on the filly, who was snagged by Fortune Warrior (Manoel Nunes) right on the line to deny the Frenchman a double, and Doleuze knows he needs every winner if he is to have any chance of pulling back Whyte's six-win margin over him.
'After the weekend, I have two days' suspension but if I can come back from that suspension only six or seven behind, I can still win. If it is more than 10 then it will be very difficult,' he said.
Local trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak had a rewarding evening, bringing home a treble with Care Free Midas (Howard Cheng Yue-tin), Show Bravely (Terry Wong Chi-wai) and Meath (Felix Coetzee) to continue a winning roll in recent weeks.
For Wong, Show Bravely's victory was a chance to put things right for the race he should probably have won the previous week when third and he made no mistake leading throughout the Class Five, 2,200m event. But the night ended less happily for the popular apprentice. Stewards banned him for two days and fined him HK$10,000 and the young rider will begin the ban after the May 24 meeting at Sha Tin.
An inquiry was adjourned into interference passing the winning post the first time in the final event.