Renown gives Gibson a great start
Freshman trainer Richard Gibson will surely train better horses than Great Renown in his Hong Kong career, but he will surely remember the six-year-old gelding after he gave the former France-based handler a win at just his second runner.
Earlier Fantastisch was a creditable third as the first runner for Gibson, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on Monday, but had even more to rejoice at after Douglas Whyte gave a copybook display on Great Renown in the fifth to hand the trainer a dream start.
But Gibson was quick to share the credit. 'I came here thinking the horse was well and would run well, but it's hard to have real confidence when you don't know the other horses or how the race might work out. You couldn't have anyone who knows Happy Valley better than Douglas on your first night here and he gave the horse a great ride,' Gibson said.
'But I have to thank my whole team for this. In the lead-up to the season, every time I've been asked how things are going I've been happy to say how well the team in the stables has been working together and this is the result. They can take a bow for the fact that we have been able to win one so early.'
Gibson said the Jockey Club veterinary department could take plenty of credit for Great Renown racing at all, let alone winning, after he missed most of last season with a right hind leg fracture.
'It was really a terrible injury that the horse had last year - if you could see his leg, he still has these two big screws in the bone,' Gibson said. 'So I'd love to think he could win again but really I'm happy just to win one, considering what he's been through.'
It was part of a double for Whyte, who scored a race earlier for David Ferraris on Chater Power, but the night ended badly with his winning performance on Great Renown earning the Durban Demon a two-day careless riding suspension.
Ferraris had a tough season in 2010-11 and was happy to get off the mark early with Chater Power, who won only one of his previous 46 starts, but the eight-year-old had been very consistently around the prize money.
'Unfortunately, those sorts of horses don't seem to get down the handicaps at all, even as they get old - he's been too genuine for his own good,' said Ferraris.
On the opening night of the 1010 Million Challenge for the new term, Almond Lee was the first to draw blood with Happy Yeah Yeah, the first leg of a winning double for apprentice Keith Yeung Ming-lun, who finished off the card with Derek Cruz-trained sprinter Flying Colours.
When Happy Yeah Yeah broke through in July for his maiden win at Sha Tin, connections indicated that the Million Challenge would be the focus for the five-year-old and grabbing the 15 points for the opening race of the series was a nice start on that ambition. 'Very lucky win - light weight, a good draw - and the inside draws have been important tonight - but the horse is doing a good job after only five starts,' said Lee.
At 10, Great Achievement showed there was plenty of life in the old boy in his final season, storming through late under Brett Prebble for his 11th win.
'It is not easy for a horse his age to be racing near the top of Class Three or in Class Two, so he is doing a fantastic job to still be winning at this level,' said trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung.