Wait is well worth it for Prebble
The Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup was about the only thing that didn't go Douglas Whyte's way at Sha Tin yesterday but there was still plenty of theatre to the Group One feature before Lucky Nine, his jockey Brett Prebble and trainer Caspar Fownes climbed off the floor to take victory.
Brett Prebble had made a miracle recovery from a broken collarbone three weeks ago to pilot Lucky Nine, who held off Whyte on Glorious Days to win by just a head margin but the drama didn't end there.
Connections of the first horse past the post were left in limbo, strewn across the racetrack for some 15 minutes awaiting the usual elaborate presentation ceremony, after slow notification of the objection by Whyte that threw the result into doubt.
The winning sash was removed from Lucky Nine's neck and Glorious Days summoned back to the holding area, while the infield screens showed head-on evidence that Glorious Days and Lucky Nine had brushed together down the lane, just as Glorious Days looked certain to go past Lucky Nine, and that had punters roaring.
Five minutes after the objection was notified, the drama was ended kindly by the stewards in Lucky Nine's favour, with Jockey Club officials breathing a sigh of relief at not having to clear the course to bring out an entirely new set of owners and their friends.
The winning jockey was a triumph for medical science, with Prebble bouncing with health and fitness after an incredibly quick recovery from the fractured left collarbone he suffered in a fall on February 11.
'All the hard work for the past two and a half weeks has paid off. I wish I had another five rides,' Prebble said after his day ended early with the Group One success. 'I'm going home still half full of charge. But I want to thank Caspar for giving me the time I needed to assure him I'd be 100 per cent right on the day. I know there were plenty of jockeys ringing up for the ride and he waited for me.'
Ironically, Fownes was well below his top fitness for the event, remaining at home for the early part of the card and was grey-gilled and overheating with a fever that had struck him down.
'I've only come over because it's a Group One. I've had a temperature of 104 this morning,' said Fownes, though he improved sharply with the victory and declared all systems go for a crack at the Golden Shaheen in Dubai at the end of the month. 'We'll see how he is after that but Lucky Nine is very tough and I'd say Dubai is on the cards. Back to 1,200m on the Tapeta I think will really suit him.'
Running second in the day's feature was the only bitter pill for Whyte amid his five winners, which broke new ground in the Jockey Challenge.
A 1.3 favourite going into the meeting, Whyte's Jockey Challenge odds were down to odds of 1.01 - bet $100 to win $1 - when he won two of the first three races. When Go Baby Go made that a treble in race six, Whyte became the first Challenge leader to have in-play betting on him suspended, even though punters could still back his nearest chasers at huge odds as he could, mathematically, still be defeated.
Club officials later confirmed that this was due to technical reasons - the club has no means in place to notify in-play odds of shorter than 1.01. Thirty minutes later, a fourth win on Wah May Star saw an early payout.