Normal transmission resumed at Sha Tin on Wednesday night as Joao Moreira booted home a dirt track double, three days after coming up with a rare air swing at the same venue.
Moreira has set a high standard during his record-breaking stint in Hong Kong and Sunday’s meeting was the first time since April last year he had gone without a winner at a meeting.
Victories on Grand Harbour and Born Dragon gave the Brazilian 102 wins from 50 meetings and leaves him with twice as many as nearest rival Zac Purton.
“Actually I would have been happy to ride just one winner, as I didn’t think I had that strong a group of rides, so two is a bonus,” he said.
Grand Harbour’s trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai said he “couldn’t wait” for injured jockey Olivier Doleuze to return after Moreira got the call-up on Grand Harbour to win on the dirt.
Doleuze injured his right foot in a freak incident aboard Grand Harbour at Happy Valley on February 1, jamming his foot in the small gap in the running rail in front of the winning post.
The Frenchman has been cleared to return next Wednesday at Happy Valley but missed the chance for a vital winner when Moreira pushed the six-year-old to a narrow front-running result.
“This was the right race for the horse and we just couldn’t wait for Ollie,” Chang said. “I’ll be giving Olivier 200 per cent support when he returns though. This horse deserved that win, he has been second in Class Four three times this season.”
Keeping condition on sprinter Born Dragon has been the biggest challenge for Caspar Fownes but the lightly framed gelding continued to punch above his weight when he went back-to-back with a gusty Class Four win.
“That’s the problem with him, he is just a little bit light, but there is a frame there and maybe he is getting there,” Fownes said. “I’ll be looking to step him up in distance after that win, I think the tempo of a 1,650m will suit him after that win. I think we will have to see how he pulls up first, let him recuperate and find another race for him in a few weeks.”
Douglas Whyte then had to dig deep to get a second win for the season out of Fownes’ Sky King to give the trainer a race-to-race double.
“He is a big horse and he sure takes some riding, and that’s two great rides Douglas has given the horse on the dirt now,” Fownes said, his brace moving him to 38 wins for the term.
Jack Wong Ho-nam scored his first victory since returning from more than three months on the sidelines when the heavily backed Forza Avanti gave Me Tsui Yu-sak the first leg of a double.
Wong broke his left ankle and underwent surgery after he came down in a horror fall at Happy Valley in November that also put Umberto Rispoli on the sidelines.
The 23-year-old came to the meeting expecting Emperor Victory to be his best chance but it was a race later when he was able to win for boss Me Tsui Yu-sak, Forza Avanti “brown lamped” and bet down to jump at 20-1 before scoring a convincing Class Four victory.
Tsui’s one-time barrier rogue Fight Hero later closed the night with an upset win in a Class Two sprint.
Hit The Bid’s all-the-way effort took apprentice Kei Chiong Ka-kei to 18 wins for the season, left her with 15 more to graduation and extended her lead to five in her quest for back-to-back Tony Cruz Awards.
Tony Millard has now provided 10 of Chiong’s 55 career winners and said Hong Kong’s only female jockey is getting back to her best of late.
“She rode a great race, if it wasn’t for her and the five pounds, she wouldn’t have won tonight,” Millard said.
Up in trip with blinkers on for the first time is rarely a recipe for success but John Size managed the feat with Works Of Art when Matthew Chadwick led all the way on the four-year-old.
“The blinkers definitely sharpened him up,” Chadwick said.
Zac Purton won his 56th race of the season when Chris So Wai-yin’s Best Reward, dropping in grade and switching to the dirt for the first time, was able to overcome a wide run.
“That was my plan,” Purton said with a smile, having simply sat four and five wide for the trip as he circled the field, but at least avoiding the trouble some of the beaten runners struck in the opening event. “He is such a skunk that it is impossible to ride any sort of race on him,” Purton said. “He just has no turn of foot, so while ever he was moving forward, I just wanted to keep him moving.”