Lai's spirit soars after surviving earlier tumble
Hong Kong jockey shows resilience by coming back from a fall and nailing the next race
Local jockey Eddy Lai-ming climbed off the canvas at Happy Valley last night to provide both the inspiration and the perspiration as Spirit Soaring scored his first victory in Hong Kong.
Just 30 minutes earlier, Lai was hurled to the ground 250m from the winning post when his mount in the sixth race, Best Win, broke down hopelessly and later had to be put down.
But Lai climbed back on the horse - literally - in the very next race to land John Moore's second success of the night with Spirit Soaring breaking through at his 13th start.
"Well, full credit to Eddy and not just because he bounced back from the fall in the previous race but because he played a big part in this horse being able to win," Moore said.
"He's been on him a few times before and he suggested that I try the side winkers on him, just to get the horse more focused and tracking up sweetly. You saw the difference tonight, he was handy to them and when Eddy wanted to go, he was sharp enough to go and win the race. "Spirit Soaring has taken a long time to come to hand here - he had bacterial problems when he first arrived and it has taken time to get over that and now he's there. He's limited, but it's nice to have won with him."
Moore's other winner - Charles The Great who was part of a double for Douglas Whyte - was only winning his second race, too, in the fifth, and Moore conceded he is now in a tough spot.
"He's got that bridesmaid tag off him - he was racing well but just not winning - but he's in no man's land now with the ratings. There just aren't going to be many races for him here at the Valley now he's over 100 rating," Moore said.
"He's at that point where his chance will come only if he can strike in a better race with a light weight or if he makes the improvement to be up to a better grade."
Moore sent out two horses hopeful of being late qualifiers for the BMW Hong Kong Derby, Albiceleste in the sixth and Sunny Ying in the last, with mixed fortunes.
"Sunny Ying had a hard run caught wide, so he might be up against it, but Albiceleste ran well for his first start. He just knocked up late to finish fourth and he'll be much fitter for that. If he had a draw, he'd have run second and would probably be in the Derby field. I'd like to see him given his chance," Moore said.
It was a call echoed by winning trainer Tony Millard after Jolly Victor (Richard Fourie) narrowly landed the final race, running on against a slow tempo that didn't suit him over 1,800m.
"This is a Zabeel who has had little racing and I think he's really going somewhere. He's better now I've put the blinkers on him and he wants the extra trip of the Derby. This was a better win than it looks because he had to make a long sustained run around the field," Millard said.
Zac Purton won the opener on Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Super Brand to take his championship lead to two, but it was all square at the finish after Whyte won the first half of John Size's double with All Bountiful then won on Charles The Great.
Size's other winner was Aomen (Alvin Ng Ka-chun) who led throughout and put to the sword the idea he would not win anywhere except on the all-weather surface. "I don't know if that theory was really tested tonight," said Size. "They let Alvin cross to the lead then didn't put any pressure on him in front so any decent horse is tough to beat when that happens."