A flu-ridden Caspar Fownes stayed dry at home last night, but the Happy Valley win of Accepted would have lifted the trainer's spirits as the young sprinter began to deliver on the promise he has shown since arriving from Ireland.
Some sound efforts in three starts last season and a second to Longines Hong Kong Sprint entrant Strathmore first-up this term proved strong form for an extended band Class Three at Happy Valley as the three-year-old lumped top weight to win.
Under a confident Zac Purton ride, Accepted scored by a neck to put his rating into the 90s for the first time after arriving on a mark of 82 midway through last season.
"It was a great effort and there's still some improvement to come as well," Purton said of Accepted, which had raced only over straight courses as a two-year-old before arriving with Fownes, winning a Listed race and placing in a Group Two.
"When they arrive on a high rating like that, it's very difficult to win right away.
"So for him to get a win on the board so soon, at his fifth start here, carrying top weight as a three-year-old against older horses, it's a great sign.
"He still got a little lost around the bend and when he hit the front, so there is room for improvement."
Fownes' victory took him to the lead in the trainers' championship, but only temporarily, with Danny Shum Chap-shing soon levelling the score at 18 wins apiece when Lucky Year won for the first time this term and then moving into the outright lead when Goodheart Success (Derek Leung Ka-chun) stormed home from last to win the final race of the night.
Shum had a simple plan mapped out for Joao Moreira on Lucky Year: lead all the way. But the local trainer had to endure some worrying moments after the speedy son of Holy Roman Emperor failed to find the front from his wide draw.
"I thought, 'three-wide, no cover, oh no', but Joao is a great jockey and didn't panic," Shum said. "This is a nice horse and we knew he would handle this track. He didn't have it go his way and still fought back.
"As for Goodheart Success, he really needed that cut out of the ground, you could see by the way he sprinted how much he liked it. It was a great ride by Derek as well, very patient and he showed some courage too."
Asked how long he could maintain his stable's early-season run of form, Shum responded: "We can't win the championship, but a top five finish would be good."
Lucky Year's win was the second leg of a double for Moreira, who overcame a tumble earlier in the night when General Iron clipped heels after the post and sent the Brazilian sprawling onto the turf, and he finished the night with 54 wins for the season and an even bigger lead in the jockeys' championship.
In the first race, Moreira caught his rivals napping with a jump-and-run ride on Peter Ho Leung's Funny Fortune, which took a drop to a mark of 24 through 22 winless starts to break through.
Ho said Moreira had been chasing him for the ride on the five-year-old, who the trainer said had to have everything "just right" to win.
"I'm relieved to get that win out of the way for him," Ho said.