Dennis Yip steals ahead in final race in trainers' championship showdown
Last-event winner sees underdog nip back in front of Tony Cruz after latter's two wins
Tony Cruz briefly took the trainers' championship lead - his only two runners for the night scoring short-head victories in consecutive races - before underdog Dennis Yip Chor-hong dramatically, and immediately, stole the lead back with a win in the last race of an eventful night at Happy Valley.
French jockey Gerald Mosse was hospitalised with a fractured shoulder after falling in race three, while wins for trainers David Ferraris and Francis Lui Kin-wai saw them reach the minimum benchmark of 13.
But the focus was squarely on Yip after Cheers Joy - formerly trained by rival John Size, who went winless for the meeting - won at his first start for his new stable and put his new handler back on top of the standings.
Yip, who has been written off as a genuine contender for much of the season, now has 66 wins and leads by one over Cruz with two meetings to go. The faltering seven-time champion Size is three off the pace and Caspar Fownes' championship chances are over after he drew a blank and remained on 60.
"I'm feeling confident," a beaming Yip said after celebrating wildly with owners. "It's going to come down to luck, and whether horses get runs or not. I've got my entries in for the next two meetings, I have the numbers I think and will just hope for the best."
Cruz came to the Valley with just two chances, but both scored - just: Beauty Sparkle (Matthew Chadwick) and Winnie's Horse (Keith Yeung Ming-lun).
"It was all down to whether I could come here and win - if I didn't win with both I was gone," said Cruz, who holds the crucial advantage of having the most seconds of the top three contenders, which is the tie-breaker.
"Matthew rode a perfect race on Beauty Sparkle, I was a bit nervous there at the 200m but he kept his cool, and Keith did a fantastic job as well. I'm still in the hunt."
Mosse, who won the first race on China Power, was taken to Queen Mary Hospital after he fell from Mr Marfach, his mount hanging out and clipping heels with eventual winner Dark Secret (Tommy Berry). The jockey was then struck by Hollywood Kiss as he rolled on the ground. Adding to the jockey's pain will be the fact that two of his subsequent planned rides won, Forza in the following event, with Chadwick up, and Winnie's Horse.
Mosse's absence from the remaining two fixtures, combined with the pressure on an already depleted riding roster, has caused stewards to take urgent action and rescind two jockeys' suspensions. Alvin Ng Ka-chun served the first day of a three-day ban last night, but will return for the final two meetings, while Derek Leung Ka-chun, who was to miss the final two days, will ride on Sunday at Sha Tin only.
Ferraris was ill and wasn't at the track to see Dark Secret lift him to 13 winners for the term, avoiding a black mark under the three-strikes policy for trainers, but Lui probably spoke for him as well after Diligent III (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) broke through for the first time this season.
"Of course it is a huge relief," Lui said.
On a track that was running fast and playing to the on-pace runners, aggressive tactics by Brett Prebble on David Hall's recent acquisition Tres Magnifique paid off. "His best form here is over further, but with the way the track was we decided that was where he needed to be, especially because he is such a one-paced horse," Hall said.