Trainer Caspar Fownes still regards Rainbow Chic's Hong Kong Derby defeat with chagrin but he was preferring to look ahead last night as the four-year-old showed how far he has come with victory in the Happy Valley Vase.
The mental game was holding back Rainbow Chic in his earliest days in Hong Kong and field shyness blamed for his close fourth in the Derby, but last night it mattered nothing to the gelding as he shrugged off a heavy bump forcing out of a pocket at the 200m to finish off powerfully.
"In the Derby, you see him with other horses around him and he's looking at them and not concentrating on racing - I still think with clear room he'd have won it but he just wouldn't race when it got tight," Fownes said last night.
"And what he did tonight, there's no way he'd have done that and have that sort of contact with another horse and then go through with it. He's a good horse, he's only just getting the hang of it all and we're going to see a lot more from him next season as he matures."
Rainbow Chic had been targeted towards last night's 1,800m Class One for some time, but was backing up from a solid Class Two second with 133 pounds on Sunday. "This was the race I wanted with him, he'd run well at Happy Valley the only other night he came here and I think the cushion in the track here suits him," Fownes explained.
"But when Pure Champion was put in this race, he compressed the weights and it changed the equation a bit for me. So I thought I'd run him on the weekend and back him up - if he won on Sunday, he'd have gone up in weight and Brett Prebble could ride him, if not I had Vincent to ride him on the light weight and he's given him a great ride."
Obviously the stewards panel thought so too, Ho escaping with only a reprimand for the incident in the straight, and the win gave the young rider a double for the card after scoring earlier for Tony Millard on True Courage, also part of a double for the trainer, who provided Zac Purton's only victory of the card.
"Flying Unicorn just had his night tonight," Purton said after chipping Douglas Whyte's championship lead to only two wins. "He's been racing well and he's often there around them but he needs it all to go right and tonight he sneaked one - it was a plus to be up on the speed which is his natural style."
Matthew Chadwick had been dumped on the track on the weekend by California Dude on the way to the gates for a race and missed his final rides, but bounced back straight away with a win for Derek Cruz on new Class Five acquisition Starlit Warrior and later added Beauty Sparkle for Tony Cruz.
But he was not as fortunate as others in the stewards' room, getting a three-day ban and $80,000 fine for careless riding on Tres Magnifique in the third race. It was Chadwick's seventh suspension this season but at least he had the winners to take away.
"Beauty Sparkle felt good going to the start and he had gate one, a big plus tonight, and won well but he isn't very robust," Chadwick said. "Maybe he can still improve next season if he can strengthen up a bit."
Starlit Warrior had been 18 starts without a placing under Andy Leung Ting-wah, but was able to win at the first time of asking for Cruz and Chadwick said there was still room for advancement off his 14 rating.
"He was on and off the bridle, very green and awkward," he said. "He's limited but if he can learn to run straight, he'd have to win another race off such a low rating."