The Paul O’Sullivan-trained Goldie Flanker overcame a serious leader bias on the Sha Tin all-weather course on Wednesday night to continue his role as one of the most unexpected heroes of the season.
On the eight-race card, three winners led throughout and four came a box seat position but Goldie Flanker (Sam Clipperton) defied the trend with what is becoming his trademark big sprint from the back of the field after three successive victories.
“And you know, last season, the two slowest horses in my yard were this guy and Dashing Dart, and Dashing Dart has won two races as well,” O’Sullivan said.
“I think it came down in both cases to very little education before they were shipped here. Goldie Flanker hadn’t had so much as a barrier trial in New Zealand before he came here and he is only now getting his head around the whole thing.”
Part of a race-to-race double for Clipperton, who had scored for John Moore on Spicy Kaka 30 minutes earlier, Goldie Flanker looked in trouble at the 200m, like anything else coming from the back of the field did all night.
“I was running him at 1,400m and he was getting it wrong and over-racing so I thought ‘what’s a race you won’t be able to pull in?’ and I thought 1,200m on the dirt is probably the answer,” O’Sullivan said.
“He’s got a cracking last 400m in him and I don’t think it’s over yet. You see at the 200m and you think he won’t get there at all, then he wins by over a length on the line. He’s a big strong, scopey sort of horse and I think he’ll handle Class Three when he’s finished with Four.”
While leaders dominated the night, top jockey Douglas Whyte was full of praise for the conditions after he won on King Genki for Tony Cruz, who was absent in Japan for the Yasuda Kinen, as was the final race-winning trainer John Size.
“King Genki has taken to this surface and unfortunately he’s going to run out of opportunities pretty soon but, when we get a nice night like this and the track was so lovely to ride, it makes me think the club should put more of these dirt meetings on,” Whyte said. “Hats off to Jim Howard for presenting it so well.”
While Whyte and Joao Moreira (Red Marvel) managed to mop up the last two events, the night generally belonged to the younger jockeys.
In addition to Clipperton’s pair, star apprentice Matthew Poon Ming-fai won twice, on Kirov and Gentlemen, and might have had a third fortunate win in the stewards’ room when he escaped penalty over his race six ride on Big Flash.
“Kirov hadn’t run for a while but 1,200m, fresh and off the mark he had got down to, there were plenty of arguments to say he could win,” said trainer David Hall after Kirov’s victory.
“He’d never won on the dirt but had always run well on it from gate 12 or some other wide draw and tonight he had barrier two.”
Chad Schofield also made a contribution with opening winner Crown Avenue and Jack Wong Ho-nam chimed in with the Richard Gibson-trained Joyful Moments.
The win by Joyful Moments put aside any concerns that Gibson might fail to meet the Jockey Club’s performance benchmark, but Manfred Man Ka-leung, Michael Chang Chun-wai, Gary Ng Ting-keung and Derek Cruz have still to meet the requirements.
Meanwhile, Olivier Doleuze was the only jockey to earn the wrath of stewards, copping a two-meeting ban and a HK$10,000 fine for his ride on the favourite Royal Performer in the last.