Prebble made to sweat as countback decides Challenge honours
The Jockey Club had to call for fourth placings for a countback victory to Brett Prebble in the Jockey Challenge on a night when Me Tsui Yu-sak clearly took the honours on the training side by carrying off both the trophy races at Happy Valley.
The Tsui-trained Team Work (Marcho Chui Kwan-lai) and Strawberry (Howard Cheng Yue-tin) were the beneficiaries of inside barrier draws that proved to be golden all evening on the tricky Valley C course with only one winner drawing outside gate six for the entire programme.
That was Prebble's first winner, the David Hall-trained Kingston Temple, who was able to scout around the field despite overracing over the 2,200m trip, then just lasted to win.
'His troubled legs are coping and that's really the key to him having won two races this season,' Hall said. 'He pulled hard but still had the strength to win, so you'd think he might not be finished. If he comes through this ok I'll think about running him again next week.'
Prebble said the gelding 'looked like a Class Three horse compared with them in the parade' but echoed Hall's thoughts.
'The track was quite forgiving tonight, which helps him, so if he gets the right conditions he might be able to win again,' Prebble said.
The Jockey Challenge in-play odds see-sawed again between Prebble and Douglas Whyte, who also had a double on Fast Go for Michael Chang Chun-wai and Absolute Hedge for John Size, with the latter appreciating a better draw.
'When I went forward last time from gate nine, he never really came back under me until we got to the back and the race was half over,' Whyte said of Absolute Hedge.
'Tonight from gate one, I asked John if I could ride him a bit cold.
'The horse is a bit raw yet - he's got a turn of foot but he doesn't know how or when to use it which is why he looked a bit one paced up on the speed last time but he was pretty convincing tonight.'
Ultimately it was Prebble's fourth placing on Bolero in the fifth which decided the Challenge, as neither rider could add any minor points to his two winners.
A frustrating season for jockey Eddie Lai Wai-ming found some relief in the second event, with the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Destiny's Child leading throughout for an upset win.
It was Lai's first win since November 4, during which time he had racked up 96 successive losses.
'It's a tough season,' said Lai after taking his season tally to four victories. 'But I've had 16 seconds - I think in the whole of last season I only had 19 seconds.'
Caspar Fownes had a rare night of frustration at the Valley until Perfect Style (Gerald Mosse) charged home to secure the final race in good style.
Perfect Style's previous wins had been when coming down the outer so his inside draw was not necessarily a gift despite the course. However, the four-year-old and his pilot handled the tight runs through the field with cool heads.
Stewards found only one victim with Olivier Doleuze suspended for two days on a careless-riding charge from race five (Elegant Win). Doleuze will commence the ban after January 31.