It was a trade meeting for most and an absentee participation for some away at the New Zealand sales, but it was Business As Usual for John Moore at Happy Valley last night as winning connections spent the night "out-waiting" each other.
The low-key Valley fixture failed to bring much new to the 1010 Million Challenge other than Gold Racer moving into a distant second on the points table behind Cape Canaveral, and jockeys' championship leader Zac Purton failing to capitalise on the first day of Douglas Whyte's suspension as he went winless.
Moore-trained Business As Usual (Weichong Marwing) got an ideal ride in a messy race while Purton racked up a second visit to the second-placed stall on Perfect Cheers, who looked a good thing beaten after nothing went right in the race. "That's three wins here so he obviously appreciates the Valley, maybe the cushion underfoot," said Moore of Business As Usual.
"The horse was going fine last season until he hurt his left hind tendon in April and that was the end of his season and it has been a long road back.
"I'm grateful to his owner for being so patient. I thought he was a great chance coming into this and he got a gun ride, but it was still only his third start from a long break so hopefully there is still another in him."
Caspar Fownes, absent in New Zealand for the Karaka yearling sale, provided Purton's two second placegetters, but he did manage a winner elsewhere as promising Braveness (Richard Fourie) made it two from two starts.
"Caspar asked Richard to find the rail, lead or first three or four, and he did that," said Fownes' sister Fenella, the stable's representative. "For the horse's first time at Happy Valley, he thought it was important he had a rail to follow and especially on the C+3 course."
Training honours went to Danny Shum Chap-shing, winning with Mirage R (Tye Angland) in the opening Class Five and with Perfect Finish (Keith Yeung Ming-lun) in the night's featured Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Challenge Cup.
Business As Usual had been a long road back, winning again a year and 15 days later, but Perfect Finish's owners had waited even longer. Formerly raced in the UK as War Painter, the now five-year-old Perfect Finish was understandably able to improve second-up on his first local start, as it had been his first race since November 2010, when he was a two-year-old.
"Two years and two months since he won as a two-year-old," said Shum "It was a great run last time and he got the right draw in gate one, I asked Keith to be positive on him and I think Happy Valley is where this horse is going to be best."
But bragging rights for the longest wait went to the owner of Always Something, Joseph Chau Din-ming. Previously with John Size, then Tony Cruz and now Richard Gibson, Always Something (Olivier Doleuze) had last been in the winner's photo in November 2009, his third win from his first five starts.
At his 47th start last night, he took his earnings to almost $4.5 million, with the win he had threatened all season.
"He's a tough nut, very consistent and was just waiting for one to work out the right way for him," said Gibson.