Northern Fire Ball delivers a little ray of sunshine
NORTHERN Fire Ball signalled his return to the big time with a gripping, last-stride win over mud-loving Lucky Sound in the final event at gloomy Sha Tin yesterday.
The inclement weather did not warm the fans but trainer Wong Tang-ping had plenty to smile about after one-time Derby place getter Northern Fire Ball (5-2 favourite) battled through on the rails to claim the Class Two, 1,600-metre event.
''He's a good horse and they make good trainers. I know it was a little on the short side for him but he won it on quality,'' said Wong.
''I don't want to push this horse and that's why we have not done a lot with him this season. But now I intend to aim him for one or two of the major cup races at the end of the season.
''I won't be taking them on at set weights, it will be one of the handicap events like the Queen Mother's Cup. I will definitely be putting him over more ground from now on,'' enthused the popular local trainer.
Once again it was the French who dominated the finish with Gerald Mosse, who has frequently ridden for Wong, just beating compatriot Eric Legrix who gave Lucky Sound (20-1) a lovely ride.
Lucky Sound is by Sharpo, whose progeny simply swim, and he clearly loved the going - a fact noted by chance rider Legrix who took over from sidelined Walter Swinburn.
''He went very, very well although I think there was a doubt about just how well he would run out a strong mile. But we did okay until the other one proved just too strong,'' said Legrix.
Mosse, who has had a tremendous stint to date, summed it up succinctly when he said: ''Northern Fire Ball is a fighter, he doesn't want to lose.'' Sunday Cruise (6-1) finished third, having been given every chance by Darren Gauci, and game topweight Mustang (9-2) was fourth.
Australian ace John Marshall had only four rides at the meeting but certainly made the most of them with a back-to-back winning double and a game second placing in the day's feature race.
Make Merry (5-1) and Golden Computer (9-2) won two of the lower class races on the programme but John Moore's retained jockey wasn't complaining and said: ''They all count.'' Make Merry won the Class Five second event with some authority, easily holding off the challenge of the Lester Piggott-ridden Nickels King (10-1) who relished the going.
Odds-on topweight Yangtze Treasure (8-5) finished third and the race was robbed of considerable interest by the late withdrawal of 9-2 chance Owners' Success who injured Walter Swinburn in the gates.
Yangtze Treasure was conceding the winner 16lbs and Tony Cruz found it hard to get him into the race in the middle stages.
The second leg of the Marshall double came via the Chris Cheung-trained Golden Computer (9-2), who was starting for the first time this season.
Golden Computer is a young New Zealand import who had problems last season when with John Moore but had dropped to the lowest class in the off-season reshuffle.
The four-year-old won well from Petticoat Lane (9-1) with Good Boy (6-1) third in the 1,400-metre event.