Belgian ace gets a reminder and lands the right result on Mission
Christophe Soumillon had a chuckle at his own expense after winning the Kowloon Peak Handicap in a last-to-first swoop on Mission ($98.50) for trainer Dennis Yip Chor-hong.
Mission has looked a potential improver for some time but it wasn't until Yip called on the international experience of Soumillon and added a set of blinkers to the gelding's racing gear that the shadow started to take substance.
Soumillon recalled riding Mission (wearing blinkers) in a gallop and being impressed with the way the British-bred three-year-old responded when asked to quicken.
'He came very nicely for me at the end of the gallop and felt very good,' said the champion, who is one of the stars of the European flat season as retained jockey to the Aga Khan.
The problem was that Soumillon confused the identity of Mission and another horse of Yip's, who had subsequently raced and been disappointing.
'So when I got to the mounting yard today, I thought I was riding something else with not much of a chance,' the Belgian rider said.
'Then Dennis reminded me that this was the horse I really liked from the gallop, and I brightened up... I realised this horse could win the race.'
Glen Boss added his name to the growing list of fans of trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fie - the trainer with the hottest strike rate in town - after Rockalot opened his winning account in the Pat Sin Leng Handicap for the bottom graders. Rockalot has only been with Yiu for two runs and the St Petersburg gelding has improved beyond all recognition from the apparent chaff bandit that raced four times last season.
'It's amazing, because Rockalot has come from a very good trainer, but whatever Ricky's done with the horse, it's certainly worked,' Boss said.
'I would have been quite happy to lead the race, but when Daneprint went out so fast and the speed was right on I was happy to take my time and come into the race after turning for home.'
Rockalot has now proved himself at 1,800 metres and Boss said stamina is his long suit rather than speed. 'Given a similar sort of speed in a Class Four race, with a lighter weight, he might even win another one for the owners,' the Australian said.
Stewards had little hesitation in declaring Dongguan Victory a late scratching in the second race, with patrol footage showing that the gelding had been denied a fair start.
A barrier attendant had placed a blindfold over the gelding's eyes to keep him settled during a delay prior to the starter letting them go, but the 'off' caught him unawares and the blindfold remained on the horse's head at the critical moment.
Chief steward Jamie Stier said the barrier attendant's decisions and handling were not unreasonable, in the circumstances. But the gelding had clearly been denied a fair start and, after stumbling out of the stalls eight lengths behind the field, stewards deemed him to have been a late scratching so that punters would get their money back.
Executive director of racing, Bill Nader, said that the refund amounted to HK$7.6 million.
Turnover for the day was up 9.7 per cent, year on year, to HK$890.5 million.
Jackpot Delight's inglorious performance in the final event as $33 favourite saw the stewards asking questions of jockey Shane Dye and trainer Caspar Fownes.
Jackpot Delight hung badly for most of the race and must now trial to the satisfaction of stewards before returning to competition.