Clark doubles up to take challenge
The winners are starting to come more freely for Australian rider Tim Clark and he made it four for the week at Happy Valley last night with a double that was enough to see him take Jockey Challenge honours on a countback over Douglas Whyte.
In a low-scoring Challenge, 24 points tied the two riders but, with two winners on Kung Hei Fat Choi and Flying Unicorn against Whyte's win and two seconds, Clark carried the day.
Class Five cellar dweller Kung Hei Fat Choi opened the scoring in the first race when he gapped his opposition and, despite the horse's limitations, or perhaps because of them, trainer Richard Gibson said he took a lot of satisfaction from the win.
'It's amazing the satisfaction that you get from winning with these low quality horses, because it isn't easy to get them over the line,' said Gibson. 'Kung Hei Fat Choi has run more than any other horse in my stable this season and he keeps trying, he's just very limited. Tim gave him a great ride from the bad barrier tonight and I suppose the horse looked good winning but I said to the owner beforehand that I didn't really want to train the horse next season.'
Kung Hei Fat Choi and the St George's Challenge Cup winner, My Goal (Whyte), were stablemates under trainer Alex Wong Yu-on last season, and they continued the good year the ex-Wong horses have had.
My Goal hugged the rail all the way from barrier one to win the trophy event for Peter Ng Bik-kuen, the third winner to start from the pole position, after Bear Express and Victory Mascot earlier.
Weichong Marwing's rides for David Hall have been sparing - just seven before last night, including his first for the yard when he finished second on Can Opener six years ago - but the jockey has had a good record with horses raced by the Fan family, and Bear Express became his second win for the clan this week after Bear Hero's win on the weekend.
Hall pointed out the three-year-old 'would have been pretty unlucky if he had been beaten' after Bear Express arrived only in the last bound to beat High Return, but said he would be a better horse next season.
'He's shown a little bit of ability and I told the owners before the race that he's going to be a progressive sort next season, whatever happened here, but it's nice to get the first win out of the way,' Hall said. 'He got back a little bit despite the good gate and caught in the ruck, so he would have been unlucky to be beaten, but he had the rail and I was pleased Weichong didn't bustle him to be closer and he just let him get balanced and finish off.'
Caspar Fownes-trained Victory Mascot (Brett Prebble) scored his fifth Happy Valley win and his third at the 2,200m distance when he got all favours in the fourth. 'Putting the blinkers back on him certainly gave him more dash when it counted and he's always been very effective at this distance,' said Fownes.
Ten pound-claiming apprentice Alvin Ng Ka-chun will remember the fairly modest meeting for his becoming a seven pound-claiming apprentice. Ng led all the way on Shibala in the fifth for his 20th win and automatically loses part of his allowance.
Andreas Suborics was the only casualty in the stewards' room, earning himself a two-day careless riding ban for his efforts on Champagne Days in the sixth race. Suborics is due to begin a suspension after the BMW Champions Mile meeting on Sunday week, so this suspension will be tacked on to the end of the two days he already has to serve.