A string of well-fancied winners stopped the bleeding for favourite backers at Happy Valley last night, Tony Cruz leading the way with a double to kickstart his season after a slow start.
Before last night, top picks in betting had won just five of the 46 races this season, but those numbers had to turn around, and wins by the favourites in the opening two events on the card were a sign of things to come, with popular elects winning five of the eight races.
After Humongus scored in the first and Hei Hei Posh in the second, Cruz later delivered the shortest-priced favourite of the night when Mega Champion (2.3) won the Hong Kong Outstanding Athletes Cup under an aggressive ride by Brett Prebble.
"That should get us going," said Cruz, who took his win total to three for the season when Matthew Chadwick drove Cape Canaveral home in the last.
"Mega Champion really should have won last start, he was held up in the straight. But this time, Brett made sure he got clear and it was a great ride. This is a horse that has struggled with mucus problems, but he seems to have grown out of that. He likes this track and we will keep him here."
Cape Canaveral, who won at his third race start and first time at the city track, was coming back in distance after tackling 1,400m at Sha Tin last time out.
"He didn't get the seven furlongs, we made a mistake there, he is a sprinter and he is built like one too," Cruz said of the 1,200-pound Starcraft gelding.
Another for the favourite followers was speed machine Good Boy Boy, who gave trainer Paul O'Sullivan his first win of the season. Good Boy Boy (Zac Purton) won for the fifth time over 1,000m at the Valley, holding off the classy Time After Time.
"He is a one-trick pony and he doesn't get many opportunities here, so we've got to take them when they come up," O'Sullivan said. "This horse just doesn't get 1,200m - when he won in Class Four over that trip he must have been in front by five lengths at the furlong, but only just fell in. He knows his way around here, but we've got to wait until late November for another chance. This horse really enjoys his racing, and he is very genuine."
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai's Fortune Bravo (Eddie Lai Wai-ming) drifted in betting, but surged away to score after sitting behind a hot speed in the Hong Kong Country Club Challenge Cup.
The five-year-old is coming off a disappointing season and was an unlucky second heading into last night's strong effort. "This horse has really got stronger in the off-season," Yiu said.
Lai made amends for what Yiu said was jockey error last start. "Eddie wasn't familiar with this horse last time, and let the leader get away from him on the turn," the trainer explained. "This time the tempo was more genuine and the jockey rode him perfectly."
Alvin Ng Ka-chun got his first win for the season, getting full marks for a steady effort on Dennis Yip Chor-hong's Hinyuen Paladin, as the apprentice handed up the lead on the 13-1 outsider, then navigated clear in the straight.
"I was surprised at those odds, because I thought he was a good chance," Yip said.
"He had dropped a lot in the handicaps and at the bottom of the weights in Class Four he was a big threat, especially from a good draw."
Andy Leung Ting-wah continued his hot streak - and continued to have fun with the handicapper - when China Good (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) swooped in the Nam Long Shan Handicap. "I've done it again, they had this horse too low in the ratings," he said after the Class Four win. In his final season of training, Leung has trained a winner at each of the last three meetings, after landing just nine last term.
Olivier Doleuze was suspended for his ride on Horse Galore, receiving a two-day ban, and Alex Lai was banned for two days for his ride on Sunny Sky.