Last-ditch effort sees Prebble snatching the Jockey Challenge
Brett Prebble arrived in the final bounds of the last race at Happy Valley last night to snatch the Jockey Challenge with a gem of a ride aboard Walkonthewildside and keep trainer Paul O'Sullivan's season bubbling over.
Douglas Whyte's devastating run in the Challenge came to end, with punters who laid the odds on burning their fingers and Prebble just pipping Eric Saint-Martin in the final reckoning.
Paul O'Sullivan's last season was a dismal disappointment with just 27 wins after finishing second to Caspar Fownes in the previous season's championship, but the Kiwi is back in form this term, last night's double with Happee Gift (Jacky Tong Chi-kit) and Walkonthewildside elevating him to fifth in the title race.
While O'Sullivan acknowledged a brilliant ride on Walkonthewildside, with Prebble taking the rails route from last to first on the gelding, the win by Jacky Tong on Happee Gift was almost a sorry reminder of what promise the sprinter had shown early on.
'He'll never be the horse he might have been,' O'Sullivan said. 'He showed plenty of promise then got a virus which left him with a blood disorder. It took him a long time to get over the whole thing - I still don't think he's right - and it looks like it's going to be a factor that limits him in his career.'
Tong gave Happee Gift a perfect B track ride for the Valley, finding the shortest way home on the rails that was the path taken by most winners during the night's racing.
O'Sullivan shared training honours for the evening with Sean Woods, who landed a pair with Juggernaut (Eric Saint-Martin) and Adaikali (Eddie Lai-wing), who bounced back to winning to take the night's Happy Valley Trophy feature.
But the Woods stable had another reason to remember the night as the farewell of stable stalwart, First Knight. The Jockey Club gave First Knight an honourable send-off as the horse to have run the most times in his career in Hong Kong - 111 starts for his nine wins and over $4.4 million stake money.
Prebble's effort aboard Magic Sweep for David Ferraris in race five was just as good as his final race ride to steal the Jockey Challenge, saving ground from a wide draw by cutting over to the rails early then bringing Magic Sweep with a strong finish to deny O'Sullivan-trained Super Snippets.
It was Magic Sweep's first win here, though the gelding has been consistent, finishing in the first four placings at around 50 per cent of his starts.
'I brought him back in distance last time to see if he would respond well to a faster pace and he ran well,' said Ferraris. 'Tonight he finally managed to win one and I doubt that he will stop there. He was a pretty decent horse in South Africa and if he's found his niche he can win another one.'
Saint-Martin also landed a double, following up Juggernaut with Fair Win for David Hall, with the latter horse landing his first victory in over three and a half years.
'The owner Keith Hsu [Kai-foo] was ready to retire him before this season and it had been a long time between drinks, but I said he should probably give Fair Win one more go starting the season down in Class Four,' Hall said. 'I think he probably appreciated coming to Happy Valley with a bit more cushion in the track because he was just disappointing last time at Sha Tin.'