Dennis Yip Chor-hong kicked another win clear in his championship challenge with a double, but it still turned out to be a sad night for the trainer at Happy Valley when he suffered a cruel blow with the loss of stable star Simple.
Wins to Sea The Pearls and Flying Elite took Yip to 58 wins for the term, and he leads seven-time champion John Size - who had a solitary winner with Ensemble - by four winners with 16 meetings remaining this season.
But after the running of the class two Indian Recreation Club Challenge Cup, Simple, who finished unplaced as favourite, stumbled and fell on returning to the mounting yard and did not recover.
"It's very sad, he was a kind horse, and very consistent," jockey Zac Purton said of the four-time winner. Even the thoughts of Richard Gibson, who combined for a treble with Olivier Doleuze were with Yip's team. "I want to dedicate the win of Vital Gold to Simple and his owners, no one likes to see a horse lost like that," he said.
California Bounty won the feature race to make it two from three, but trainer Tony Cruz said he never expected his horse to get further than last night's race distance of 1,000m. "He is a real fine racehorse, but he is just a short course sprinter," he said.
Winning jockey Keith Yeung Ming-lun tended to agree, adding that a lack of size might also hold the gelding back. "If he was a bit bigger I would say he would make a group horse, but he is certainly very talented," he said.
Purton wasn't on either of Yip's winners, but his own title chase received a boost when jockeys' championship leader Douglas Whyte was suspended for two days after an eventful race four - before which Yeung was injured, but cleared to ride later in the night, after his mount Fujian Spirit burrowed under the gates, forcing the horse's withdrawal.
Sea The Pearls won the special conditions class three, helping Terry Wong Chi-wai double his seasonal win total - from one to two. But Wong was later handed another three-day suspension and HK$20,000 fine for careless riding in race six. It was his seventh careless riding charge of the season.
"I was happy when I won, but I wish I could stop getting suspended," lamented Wong.
Gibson's three winners - Sure Champ, Jazzy Feeling and Vital Gold - were all ridden by Olivier Doleuze, who took his win total to 36 for the season.
Doleuze rode Jazzy Feeling, who broke his maiden at start five, like he was the best horse in the race, sitting deep and easily circling the field in a class four.
Doleuze said Vital Gold may be better ridden quietly, but said he felt obliged to make use of gate one and push up into the box seat.
"In the end he was brave to fight the way he did," Doleuze said of the way the horse dug in when challenged by Circuit Star.
"I thought the other horse would go past but he showed some toughness and heart."
Purton produced the ride of the night on the promising Tony Millard-trained youngster Golden Harvest, who benefitted from a three-month lay off and gelding operation.
But even though the horse is likely to go higher and clearly had something on his class four opposition, Purton's effort to get into a one-out, one-back position from gate nine was superb. "That was an unbelievable effort to get there from that gate," Millard said.
"But that's what top jockeys do, they make their own luck."
Whyte hit back two races later to maintain his four win lead in the jockeys' championship on Ensemble - trainer John Size describing the performance as "workmanlike". "He made some progression from one start to the next," Size said.
"He was put up on the speed from the wide gate, and he battled quite well. It was only his second start in Hong Kong so you would hope there is some improvement there."