Du Plessis' Juggernaut day
Mark du Plessis gave his spluttering season a kick-start with a much-needed treble, including an impressive win on emerging 'Happy Valley King' Legendary Dragon.
Leading into yesterday's rare day time fixture at the city circuit, Du Plessis had not won for more than a month and was stuck on 13 wins, his momentum was halted and the Zimbabwe-born jockey was grasping for quality rides.
He ended his 62-ride run of outs with a win on Absolute Fantasy, followed it with a narrow victory on Juggernaut before capping a spectacular day with a Cup win on Ricky Yiu Poon-fai's Legendary Dragon.
It was nearly a four-timer as Du Plessis was beaten a short-head on long-shot Jumbo Gold, and he hopes his good form can attract more rides and, just as importantly, stay on the winners he rode yesterday.
'It's been a bit quiet for me, so this is great,' Du Plessis said. 'You slowly lose rides and you lose a lot of your support and end up on bad ones when you don't win for a while. Hopefully the horses I rode today, I can keep, and in the next few months I can ride between 10 and 20 winners.
'These sort of days carry you a long way. It was good to be riding winners again, and it was nice to win for Ricky.'
Du Plessis was referring to a controversial seven-meeting running and handling charge he copped last season for a ride on Yiu's Fun Heroes, after which he received few opportunities for the stable.
Legendary Dragon's dominant victory in the Hong Kong Exchanges Challenge Cup extended the game four-year-old's record at the city track to three from three and was Du Plessis' first win for Yiu since May last year.
Yiu had flagged the gelding's course-speciality after his first win at the venue.
'He could be a Happy Valley king,' Yiu said. 'He gets up on the speed, he handles the turns beautifully and he has got a good turn of foot.
'His attitude is getting better too, sometimes he acts like a colt and overdoes things but he showed improvement today.'
A rating that is approaching 90 will limit Legendary Dragon to mainly Sha Tin soon, but Du Plessis said the horse's improved tractability will see him adapt to the bigger circuit, where he has been disappointing in two starts.
'The way he relaxed today, I think he will compete there for sure,' he said. 'I think next season he'll be winning a nice race, as long as he doesn't get lumbered with too much weight, because he is not the biggest horse. He is a tiny little thing, but nuggety.'
'He could have led today, but luckily Arrived Ahead shot around us and he was able to relax, he switched off completely.'
Du Plessis only got the ride on Absolute Fantasy when Douglas Whyte was suspended and the horse's trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak explained the move to go back to last from barrier 12 was 'a gamble that paid off'.
'His trackwork was great, but when he drew barrier 12, I thought, this is going to be hard,' Du Plessis said. 'Me Tsui came up with a plan to go back, and luckily today the track was better on the outside. It also helped that when he came around them we got on the back of Ming Hoi Treasure, he was three wide and pulled us into the race.'
Coming in off a two-month let-up, Juggernaut broke through for a win, grinding it out with fellow old-stager Billion to fall in by a short-head.
The Sean Woods-trained eight-year-old is battling back problems, and would prefer the sting out of the ground these days, but Du Plessis said the gelding seemed well after his break.
Andreas Suborics was found guilty for careless riding, passing the 800m on Good Words. He will sit out two meetings (May 6 and 9).