Dennis Yip plotting another mission for Flying Elite after gelding's back-to-back wins
Back-to-back wins keep trainer in front in title race, and horse's season may not be over yet
Flying Elite not only helped Dennis Yip Chor-hong maintain a three-win lead over his more fancied rivals in the trainers' championship, but the in-form four-year-old may get the chance to deliver another crucial victory before the end of the season.
The top four trainers on the table all had wins, and Yip (64) leads from Tony Cruz (61), John Size (60) and Caspar Fownes (58) with six meetings remaining.
Flying Elite made it back-to-back victories, caning his rivals in a sizzling time of 1.38.83 - more than two seconds under standard for a Class Four over 1,650m. Yip said he would attempt to squeeze another win out of Flying Elite in either a Class Three at Sha Tin July 7, or at the season finale three days later at Happy Valley.
"He is an improving horse, and he is only lightly-raced and I think he can win again," Yip said.
Ben So Tik-hung filled in on Flying Elite for Howard Cheng Yue-tin, who was injured in the night's big fall two races earlier.
Cruz's win came with Naughty Baby - with another fill-in rider notching a win, Keith Yeung Ming-lun replacing Vincent Ho Chak-yiu.
Yeung had his hands full heading to the line as Naughty Baby hung in badly, a habit Cruz was confident would be remedied in the off-season; Yeung copped a two-day careless riding suspension.
"He will grow out of this hanging business, he will mature," Cruz said. "He is a very immature type of horse - but he is like wine, he'll just keep getting better - and I promise you he will be better next season."
Emperor Claudius has been a frustrating horse for Size, winning just one of 21 before last night, but once Gerald Mosse found the front the trainer felt confident.
"He is a bit of a rail-hugger, but he hasn't been able to get to the fence of late," Size said. "It was a welcome win. He is disadvantaged when he doesn't get to the rail."
Fownes was in danger of losing touch with the leading group in the trainers' title approaching the last, but a nice ride from Weichong Marwing - who made the best of a bad situation - saw Perfect Cheers cause a 29-1 upset.
Marwing was stuck three-deep in the middle stages, but when the pace slackened he moved up to challenge the lead in what proved a race-winning move. "He had to make a decision once he got stuck there," Fownes said.
"This horse had a bit of race fitness on his side and that proved the difference. It was a tough win, we came here pretty confident that he was a good each-way chance."
Trailing Yip by six with 58 races to go, Fownes called his task "nearly impossible", but added, "Don't write me off, I'll be giving it my best shot."
Andreas Schutz pulled off a great training performance to win with Military Secret (Olivier Doleuze) first-up, a horse whose career remains on a "knife edge" because of a severe tendon injury. The Steven Lo Kit-sing-owned Irish import hadn't raced since August 2011, and had battled a long list of ailments since arriving in Hong Kong that kept him off the track.
"He did a tendon in November, and we considered retiring him then," Schutz said. "It looked like a proper bow on the outside, but the scans don't look as bad. We will see how he pulls up, but the owner has a few options he can bring in to replace him, so we have to consider that."
Tommy Berry continued his red-hot run, adding a double on Really The Best and Golden Harvest to his treble last Sunday to take his seasonal total to 16.