HK stars flop badly in soggy conditions
Hong Kong horses drew a blank in the return leg of the interport trophy on a soft surface that heavily favoured front runners, but the visitors at least salvaged something from the day as Olivier Doleuze surged to an emotional and dominant Macau Derby victory.
After the hosts dominated the first leg at Sha Tin, the roles were reversed yesterday as the four raiders sent for the HK$2.4million Macau Hong Kong Trophy struggled on a Taipa turf track, which produced a diabolical leader bias.
Gary Moore's Viva Pronto skipped to an all-the-way win under former Hong Kong-based jockey Stanley Chin Kin-ming as locals filled the first five places, with the visiting runners, unaccustomed to the boggy conditions, floundering back in the field.
Viva Pronto, owned by casino proprietor and Macau Jockey Club chairman Stanley Ho Hung-sun, won the Hong Kong leg of the series at triple-figure odds in 2010 and was fifth at Sha Tin last month.
The best for the away team was Kyara, prepared by the winning trainer's brother John, who had virtually written-off his chances after drawing widest of 12 runners.
'Viva Pronto had only finished a couple of lengths back in the first leg,' he said. 'It was imperative we draw inside and from gate 12 we had to go back, but today you had to pay up a bit closer, it was just a front-runner's track.'
The Tony Cruz-trained Crown Witness never got hot as he raced wide and off the speed before fading to ninth, 13 lengths off the winner.
'As soon as the gates opened, the Hong Kong horses were all at sea on that ground and totally lost,' Cruz said.
'It is hard for our horses, they would never have experienced anything like that kind of ground.'
Doleuze took full advantage of the on-pace trend and bounced Elderly Paradise to the front from gate two in the HK$2.6 million Derby, before bursting away to a stunning 12-length margin
The French rider celebrated in typical flamboyant style, later explaining that the victory had added meaning. He said Macau had 'opened their arms' to him and saved his career when he was suspended in 2003 for a cocaine positive, paying particular tribute to winning trainer and good friend Tam Man-chau.
'I rode here for 12 months when I was away from Hong Kong for being a bad boy,' Doleuze said.
'Macau was very good to me, they allowed me to come back here and I may not be back in Hong Kong if it wasn't for that opportunity. I will never forget that.
'So when 'MC' asked me to ride his Derby horse and said it had a great chance, I just hoped to get a good gate, and I got it.
'It was all about the horse, I was just a passenger.'