Delpech finds form but stipes are left less than impressed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2007, 12:00am

South African ace lands in hot water despite riding a treble

Anthony Delpech waited six meetings to really get into a winning groove, but walked away from Sha Tin last night HK$30,000 poorer, a two-meeting suspension to be served and a running-and-handling inquiry hanging over his head.

The record-breaking South African champion had a treble with Bite My Dust ($131) for Ricky Yiu Poon-fie, As You Wish ($87) for Peter Ng Bik-kuen and Crusader Of Gold ($121.50) for David Ferraris, as well as seconds with debutant Spare A Dime and Island Super.

But instead of floating home on the euphoria of a super day at the office, Delpech trudged off with a heavy heart after double disappointment in the stewards' room.

All the jockey's problems arose from his ride on Spare A Dime, trained by John Size, which flashed home from last to finish second to Rocket Power (Felix Coetzee) in the fifth event.

Despite a not-guilty plea to a careless-riding charge, stipendiary stewards found against Delpech, saying that near the 200 metres he shifted his mount out when not clear of Not Quite Perfect, causing that horse to be bumped and carried out, thereby hampering Monty and Real Surprise, with Mr Floodlight being checked in the backwash.

But worse was to come. Stewards also opened an inquiry into Delpech's handling of the promising galloper, which settled last before making ground strongly in the final 400m.

Stewards took extensive evidence from Delpech and Size, before adjourning the matter.

Chief stipe Jamie Stier said the stewards' chief concerns rested with Delpech's handling of Spare A Dime in the early and middle stages of the race.

Delpech was clearly incensed at the line of questioning but refused to comment on the inquiry as he left the course with wife Candace.

On the subject of his winners, Delpech was particularly pleased to see Crusader Of Gold finally convert the shadow to substance, racking up only his second career victory in 18 starts in the Elm Handicap (1,600m).

'That's the sort of thing we've been hoping to see from him for quite a long time,' Delpech said. 'He works so well, this horse, but he has let us down on race days on a number of occasions.

'But David had him in great order for his return today, and the strong pace up front really helped him. For a horse like him who gets back to near last, a strong pace is a big plus.'

Delpech also spoke positively about Bite My Dust, who surprised trainer Yiu with his ability to win at the minimum trip down the straight course in race three.

'He has looked like he might want a bit further than 1,000 metres, and it was hard to be confident having drawn down in barrier two, so he's done a good job to win,' the rider said.

Yiu admitted his pleasant surprise after the race, saying he had expected the race would be a soft snap for the Sean Woods-trained odds-on favourite Clear Win.

'My horse is only a three-year-old and I've always felt he will be at his best over more ground,' Yiu said. 'And the way Clear Win performed at his first start, I thought he would beat us today without too many problems. So to win like this was a nice surprise.

'Bite My Dust is still quite immature, mentally as well as physically. He's definitely not 100 per cent yet, so winning this way may indicate he is a horse of some promise.'

Delpech also came away with the 1,800m event for the cellar-dwellers on As You Wish, the Testa Rossa five-year-old who had been winless until this breakthrough at start number 15.

'Peter Ng is a very good trainer to ride for,' Delpech said. 'He knows this horse has to be ridden quietly and he never pressures me to try to have him closer. He likes to balance up and run home, and it was proved today that's the way to ride him.'

Paying the price

The amount, in Hong Kong dollars, that Anthony Delpech was fined for his ride on Spare A Dime: 30,000