Relieved Lai and Yiu get monkey off their backs
Local jockey Alex Lai Hoi-wing threw off an indifferent start to the new season with a treble but still failed to land the Jockey Challenge honours.
Brett Prebble overtook Lai late in the meeting with the weight of his multiple minor placings carrying the day, but that won't have bothered Lai, who had ridden just one winner and endured eight second placings before getting home on Classa for Peter Ho Leung, Panther Run for Peter Ng Bik-kuen and rounding out his day on Lunar Reflections as trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai also put a frustrating start behind him.
Despite more runners than any other trainer, Yiu had won only three races for the term but had racked up 14 second placings, a category in which only Tony Cruz led him, and found himself uncharacteristically low down in the trainers' rankings.
'It has been a bit frustrating,' said the trainer, after promoted reserve Outdoor Pegasus (Derek Leung Ka-chun) completed a double for the yard in the final race.
'I've had a lot of seconds and thirds but that's horse racing. Sometimes the luck doesn't go your way. It's nice to get two today and I was very lucky to get the second one.
'Outdoor Pegasus was second reserve for the race, first one, then another horse came out, he gets a start and wins the race.
'It's amazing how often the reserves do win if they do get into the field,' he added.
With blinkers going on Lunar Reflections after his last-start second to Regency Winner over the Valley 1,650m, Yiu said he had gone into yesterday's race with some confidence the consistent six-year-old would strike top form.
'When he ran last time, I felt that Lunar Reflections was there to win the race at the 300m but mentally he didn't seem to be quite there - with the blinkers on today he was more focused and he finished the job,' Yiu said.
'Alex gave him a very good ride and used the inside draw - he has run very fast time, I think the fastest he has gone for this distance here, so he might be able to win again.'
That will be what connections of Lai's opening winner, Classa, will be hoping after that seven-year-old finally shed the non-winner badge he has worn proudly for more than two years.
Having his 41st local race start, when he was rated 85 by the handicapper, Classa managed to claim the large end of the prize money off a current rating of 25 after getting the ideal trip under Lai.
'I thought he could win last time but he was narrowly beaten and I felt sorry for the owner,' said Ho, though the horse which beat him, Easy Gold, did frank that form by winning again since.
'In that race, the pace was quite slow because Classa was able to race right on the lead, but this time there was more pace and Alex rode a good race and sat back a little bit further.'