Diamond Supreme sparkles on his return
Apprentice Ben So Tik-hung showed patience beyond his limited experience to land Diamond Supreme a first-up winner, almost a year since the Tony Millard-trained sprinter was sidelined with leg problems.
Despite the long lay-off, Diamond Supreme had a little confidence behind him in the betting before swamping Diamond Knight in the final stages of the Shanghai Handicap (1,000m), but backers who were cursing the 10-pound claimer after 50 mertes probably had him to thank for the win in the end.
Diamond Supreme, never a reliable beginner, tumbled out of the gates to settle clear last but, rather than bustling the five-year-old, So calmly and patiently worked his way back into the field before unleashing his powerful finish.
'I just told Ben to ride the horse the way he rode him in the trial the other day, let him find his feet and run on and that's what he did,' said Millard, who completed a stable double.
'Actually, he trialled against better horses than these and went well without knocking himself out. It was quite a soft trial in among other horses and that's why he was able to produce it today.'
While the win was a just reward for the patience of Diamond Supreme's owners, too, who have had just three runs from the bay in 18 months after tendon problems required surgery to both forelegs last April, it was a reminder for Millard of what might have been in other circumstances.
'He's always been a difficult horse going to the parade ring and he banged a leg at Happy Valley and hurt himself,' he said. 'This would have been a genuine Class One horse if he was fully sound but he hasn't always had things easy. He's got a good motor, though, and the 10-pound claim was definitely in his favour. He isn't a big horse and the difference for him between carrying 118 pounds with the allowance or 128 without it was an important one.'
Earlier, Millard had won the Class Five over 1,800m with Fujian Prince, who helped Jeff Lloyd to win the Jockey Challenge after appreciating a better tempo than he had struck first time out this season.
'He's been a really good soldier for the stable,' Millard said. 'I think I got him in Class Five, he won his way up to winning in Class Three and now he's back winning his sixth race again in Class Five as an eight-year-old. You need those horses - bread and butter horses - and I'd like a couple more like him. I've got better overall quality in my stable now than last season, but my numbers are lower than they have been so I've certainly got room.'