It took exactly 769 races to be sure of it, but Happy Valley was awash with nationalistic pride as Dennis Yip Chor-hong roared home Flying Elite to become the first Chinese champion trainer for more than a decade yesterday.

Seven-time champion trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee was the man who won that 2001 title and Yip's former mentor didn't miss the chance to accept the cheers of the crowd and the embrace of the Hong Kong's newest racing legend.

"I am so happy," said Yip, who has been training for a decade. "I was born in Hong Kong, I have lived all my life in Hong Kong and now I am a proud Hong Kong champion trainer. I say to the Hong Kong people that if they work hard, they will get the reward, as I did."

With foreign-born trainers to the fore in most years, Yip struck a blow for the locals and said he felt a real affinity with the racegoers. "I feel they support me, that I am their champion," he said.

The result had been thrown into doubt only two hours earlier. Yip led Tony Cruz by two wins going into the meeting, but with fewer seconds if it came down to a tiebreak, and Cruz put him on the ropes with back-to-back wins by Bullish Boy and Super Goal Elite in the fourth and fifth races.

"Of course, I was worried because Tony had more seconds than me so he would be the winner if it stayed that way," Yip said. "I was most confident about my horses in the last two races but it can't be any more exciting than this - nobody knows the winner until the last race."

Like his old boss Kan, Yip played to the crowd, waving his arms and revving them up to a frenzy as the horses went onto the track for the last race, then stood perched on a railing beside the parade yard, screaming himself hoarse as Ben So Tik-hung took the season's last favourite clear and claim the championship. So had the eye of the tiger on Flying Elite, beginning decisively to put the gelding into a prominent position early and no one could have ridden a more perfect race to land Yip's first title, a title that had been totally unheralded at the season's opening.

"Early in the season, nobody knows who will be the champion, but you do your best and all my horses were healthy and doing well," said Yip. "But in April, I think that was the first time I went to the top and only then did I start to realise I could win. I looked around at my horses and thought 'I could win another 20 races' and so then I started to really plan every race very carefully. The class, the distance, the track."

And if that plan included a nail-biting finish and the most popular winner then the Jockey Club was only too happy to take it, with an incredible, deafening atmosphere to greet the new champion, an atmosphere only defeated by the arrival of the fireworks display to celebrate the season's end.

Chief executive Winfried Engebrecht-Bresges described the season as "one of our best ever."

With HK$1.337 billion in turnover for the night, the club's total handle for the season climbed to HK$93.845 billion - a record - with HK$11.029 billion for the government in betting duty.

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