Grand Dragon leads charge for Doleuze
Grand Dragon appreciated quieter tactics to land the Long Ke Handicap (1,200m) and set up brilliant French jockey Olivier Doleuze to take Jockey Challenge honours in an upset.
Doleuze landed the Caspar Fownes-trained three-year-old in the second, then added Momentous for Me Tsui Yu-sak later in the day to have hot favourite Douglas Whyte off the bit going into the final events of the Challenge, with a deficit he proved unable to pull back.
'Ah, it's nice - two winners but all my horses ran quite well so I picked up quite a few points without winning. I would have liked more winners but that's normal,' Doleuze laughed.
Grand Dragon had looked a promising newcomer in his debut, running on at 1,000m up the Sha Tin straight course behind Bold Decision, but he had disappointed as favourite when ridden for speed at Happy Valley since.
Quiet handling early brought the right response when Fownes subsequently trialled the gelding on December 16, Grand Dragon coming with an emphatic finish from last to win the trial, and similar tactics were employed yesterday. 'He's not bred to be a speed horse and I think we probably won't see his best until he gets over a mile later,' said Fownes.
'So I thought he'd do better as a chaser at 1,200m rather than being forward, though the wide barrier would have forced our hand to ride him quieter in any case. I wanted him to relax, to finish off and he did,' Fownes added.
'I like this horse, he has the right, calm attitude for Hong Kong racing. This was quite a good field, I think some of the other runners have a fair share of talent, too, so it's a good sign that he's been able to beat them like that.'
Doleuze took over from Way Leung Ming-wai on Momentous, who had been cricket score odds when third in Class Two last time out behind subsequent winner O'Reilly Rally, but the return to Class Three had tipped the balance to notching his first win here.
'The main thing for him today was the good pace on up the front,' Doleuze said.
'I had a lovely run despite drawing towards the outside, the speed was good and, when I came to the outside, I just didn't let him think too much about it. I kept him coming.'