Tout Va Bien testosterone levels take shine off Valley opening meet
Punters shrugged off a one-lane highway at Happy Valley last night to post strong turnover figures but a story is brewing behind the scenes with a third horse showing elevated levels of testosterone and withdrawn from last night's meeting.
Caspar Fownes-trained Tout Va Bien was withdrawn from the second event during yesterday afternoon after pre-race testing revealed elevated testosterone levels after the sprinter had been administered with the same product which has produced similar test results from Andy Leung Ting-wah-trained Elite Fortune and Gary Ng Ting-keung's Alive And Kicking in recent days after they had been given the same treatment during July.
The samples taken from Elite Fortune and Alive And Kicking were outside the recommended withdrawal period for the treatment, indicating that the testosterone is staying in the horses systems for much longer than expected.
Tout Va Bien became the first horse withdrawn from a race with the problem but all horses entered for Sunday at Sha Tin and previously treated with the same product will be examined closely before being allowed to race.
On the track, the combination of recent rains and Happy Valley's drying capacity produced a lightning quick track with a strong bias to the rail and lead, with five winners box seated in the run, two which led throughout and only one coming from further back than third - Harry Harry (Zac Purton), who sat a handy fifth. Purton opened his account for the season leading all the way on Andreas Schutz's Jolly Wongchoy in the fourth before he produced the ride of the night on the nine-year-old Harry Harry to cross behind runners from a wide gate then drive into a one out-one back position and Harry Harry defied his 44-1 odds to give Manfred Man Ka-leung the first leg of a winning double he completed with Beautiful Dreamer.
'Harry Harry was a bit of a surprise. I rode him on Monday and he still felt big and I expected he might need the run but everything just fell into place through the race,'
Purton said: 'Jolly Wongchoy looked more of a chance but he's done a good job because he did have to work to get the front. The things Andreas really wanted tonight were to kick strongly on the turn, and try not to use the whip. We've all seen Jolly Wongchoy before going three lengths clear then folding up and Andreas thought maybe if I didn't use the whip that he might give a little bit more at the finish and hold on.'
It was an evening of doubles, with Purton, Lai, Howard Cheng Yue-tin and trainer Peter Ho Leung all contributing pairs. Cheng's early double on Ho-trained maidens Aipoder Image and Fly High saw him firm to odds-on for the Jockey Challenge but his followers wound up out of pocket after Lai followed the script and won on Beautiful Dreamer and the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained Happy Ambassador from the box seat.
Cheng's ride on Aipoder Image in the first race from a wide gate also deserved plaudits as the Class Five galloper had been going well but hampered by wide gates when ridden back at the end of last season.
'He had shown speed in his early days,' observed Ho. 'The wide draw cost him a win at the end of last season and so the plan tonight was not to lead but to try to get across and get cover a bit closer. In the end, Howard got him into the box seat and the horse got the win he had deserved.'
In the final event, punters queued around the block to back Our Lucky Baby, going for his fifth straight win over the Valley 1,200m, when he looked certain to be in the key spot to take advantage of the track bias and so it proved, with Keith Yeung Ming-lun straight to the front on the rail and the sprinter was never headed.
Brett Doyle had the dubious honour of being the first rider suspended for the season - bagging a two-day ban on The Witch's Broom in race seven - and he will commence that penalty after Sunday's fixture.