Astute punters right on the money with Superior Unit
Soft ground made all the difference, explains Hall
Trainer Alex Wong Yu-on had an overdue 'field' day at Happy Valley last night but it was David Hall who stole the show as Superior Unit burst Warrior's bubble to take the night's feature.
Unplaced and beaten a total of 371/2 lengths in four prior runs in Hong Kong, Superior Unit (Brett Prebble) had signalled improvement in training and a trial but nothing to advertise the 25-1 to 8-1 plunge that he landed in the Sports Club Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup (1,200m).
'His trial had been okay but the biggest thing he had going for him tonight was an inside draw and the fact the track was wet,' said Prebble. 'He's got a choppy sort of action that feels like he wants give in the ground and he got it.'
Stewards grilled Hall about the improved performance of Superior Unit and the change in tactics from having the horse ridden back to having him right on the pace last night for Prebble.
'I told the stewards that the horse had always been ridden back because I wanted to have him settled down,' Hall explained.
'But he continued to hang like that and with a good gate and Brett on tonight, we had to try something different. The other plan wasn't working. His gallop on the Riverside was an improvement coming into this but as far as the big betting move is concerned, I would think that's just the smart punters who realised he was a soft-track horse when he raced in Sydney and was going to be suited by this ground. I can just about guarantee that if we had a firm track tonight, he wouldn't have won.'
Superior Unit's victory almost overshadowed the defeat of Warrior at odds-on - his first defeat in four starts after never looking comfortable with horses around him for the first time.
'He didn't begin as well as he normally does and then gate one was the worst place for him,' jockey Douglas Whyte explained. 'He's never been surrounded before and when we went to the first turn, he looked up and saw just a wall of horses in front of him and he wasn't happy. I thought he was vulnerable tonight for that reason but I think he'll take a lot away from this experience and be a tougher racehorse next time as a result.'
Earlier, Whyte had been aboard as Alex Wong landed a winning double - his first wins since Butterfield won at Happy Valley at the end of November. Wong landed Yue Yun-hing's ownermates Deerfield and Butterfield and reflected on the ups and downs of racing.
'It's about time but I've had seven seconds and a lot of thirds as well since the last win,' he said. 'That's horse racing and there is nothing you can do about it. When you're winning it seems easy but there are times when things just don't seem to work out. You're up one day and down the next.'
Butterfield was having his first run for over two months in the Arbuthnot Handicap (1,650m) but Whyte said the break and the cut in the ground both worked for him.
'He's going to be a Class Two horse later but he had put in a couple of ordinary runs his last two and that was the real Butterfield tonight,' he said. 'He had an easy run on the rail and I was in two minds about going up the fence but he was going that well I decided to come wide and he quickened up nicely for me.'
And South African trainer Tony Millard kept his season ticking over with Something Special (apprentice Thomas Yeung Kai- tong) winning the second event as one of the few to come from well off the speed and score.
'Thomas has ridden beautifully tonight and I told him, 'Ride confidently, ride like you have the best horse' and he did,' Millard said. 'This horse is only three, he has a nice pedigree and he's going to develop into something. He was supposed to run at Sha Tin on the weekend but got ballotted so we ran here - I guess these things happen for a reason.'
Terry Wong Chi-wai landed a double on Friendship and Perfect Athlete but the ride on Friendship landed him in trouble - a two-day ban and a HK$10,000 fine for careless riding.