The already tense trainers' championship got a touch tighter at Happy Valley last night as the top two went winless, but third-placed John Size ominously crept closer and fourth-placed Caspar Fownes kept his slim title hopes hanging by a thread.
Dennis Yip Chor-hong leads on 65 wins from Tony Cruz (62), and while the top pair couldn't kick clear, Size moved to equal second when Red Dancer won the last and the leaders will be nervously looking over their shoulders.
Fownes won with The Prince (Zac Purton), but left the city track with a frustrating three seconds as well - he is on 60, five off the lead with four meetings remaining, and the battle may have narrowed down to the top three. "I probably needed another win to stay in the hunt," Fownes said. Seven-time champion Size looms large, seemingly with the most bullets left to fire, and produced Red Dancer to win at his second start in Class Three, a rare feat for a northern hemisphere three-year-old.
"He had a genuine excuse pulling up with mucus last start, and an early win like that is a good sign - let's hope he keeps going on with it," Size said.
Red Dancer gave Douglas Whyte a running double to close the meeting after he won the previous event on Peter Ng Bik-kuen's evergreen My Goal.
"He helped me win a jockey challenge here one night and I've won on him a few times," said Whyte, who moved to 96 wins and 12 clear of Purton in the jockeys' championship.
The riding honours for the night went to Gerald Mosse with a treble, as he and a host of local trainers stymied the top four trainers' plans. Peter Ho Leung provided Mosse with two of his three victories - Good Smile and The Fast Lane book-ending a win by Jade Christy.
"He is still a world class rider," Ho said after Mosse's win in a rare 2,200m Class Four on The Fast Lane. "Especially on stayers, the way he can get a horse to settle and relax."
Ho said Class Five Good Smile was a horse that simply needed to find the rail - and drawing gate one helped. "He is a horse that hangs badly, and when he gets to the fence with cover, he could win in Class Four - if he doesn't get to the fence, he couldn't win a Class Five," he said.
When Jade Christy won on debut in late 2011 he seemed a horse of promise, but he hasn't won since and trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai said the bar may have been set a touch too high.
"I think he definitely needs a senior rider," Yiu said. "We've used kids on him before, but he is a long-striding horse that is hard to ride - it was like putting a monkey on an elephant."
Tommy Berry won his 17th race of what has been a successful short-term stint in Hong Kong, and he did it without a whip in the closing stages on John Moore-trained Griffindor, the three-year-old responding to some open hand slaps on the neck and shoulder.
"Tye [Angland] actually knocked my whip out of my hand, and it might have been a blessing - I'd hit him three times with the stick on the backside, and he didn't do anything - but I hit him with my hand and he jumped out of the ground," Berry said.
The owners of Red Lucky Star (Olivier Doleuze) finally got some joy with a five-year-old that had been winless in 28 previous local starts.
"He has trialled well a few times since he was transferred to me earlier this season, and a couple of starts back he was only beaten a short-head," trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai said. "Last start I made a mistake and asked Brett Prebble to take him back. He is much better ridden closer to the lead, like tonight."
The already depleted jockey roster will be another rider down for the final three meetings of the season after Alvin Ng Ka-chun received a three day careless riding charge for his effort on One Of A Kind in the last race.