The Wheel's a big turn for Murphy
FIRST-season trainer Joe Murphy celebrated the biggest success of his short career when The Wheel (12-1) won the $300,000 STDM Cup at icy Taipa yesterday.
The popular young Irish-American made it a day to remember with a double late in the 10-event card and is now one of the most talked about trainers on the Macau complex.
The Wheel was ridden by Irish jockey John Egan, refreshed after a break in the Philippines following the pre-dawn assault on him 10 days ago.
The Wheel hit the line a length in front of soft-track specialist Zen Decree (16-1) in the 1,400-metre sponsored event with All Smiles (4-1 favourite) a further three lengths back in third.
A delighted Murphy received the trophy from casino tycoon Stanley Ho and then said: ''I have always believed the horse was one of the best three in Macau and he has shown that with some great runs in the past.
''This race came at exactly the right time for him and he was just right. I was very confident he would run well and just hoping he would win it although it was obviously a tough field.
''It was a good winner for John and he did everything right. It's easily the biggest day of my career so far and I am really delighted at the way things have gone. I have had a lot of support otherwise none of this would have been possible,'' he said.
Champion jockey Geoff Allendorf gave the favourite every chance but he was simply outgunned by a horse who did look as if he had been fine-tuned for his tilt at the trophy.
Murphy chalked up the double when Happy Together (3-1) took the seventh event for regular rider Danny Brereton by three parts of a length in the Class Five, 1,200-metre event.
Leading trainer Claude Charlet posted a back-to-back double with 3-1 favourite Red Heights, completing a hat-trick in the fourth event, and 12-1 chance Mon Cheri, successful in a Class Four 1,500-metre event.
Allendorf scored as he pleased on Red Heights and useful claimer Zas T. K. Nip continued a good season with Mon Cheri.
Visiting international jockeys Grant Davison and Pat Shanahan also tasted success.
Irishman Shanahan had a welcome change of luck when Malone (15-1) obliged in the opener and New Zealander Davison was again seen to advantage when Lighting King (28-1) blitzed a Class Four field by five lengths in the sixth event.
The plunge in the temperature and the chilling wind blowing off the Pearl River Estuary sent the 4,833 fans deep into the shelter of the grandstand and overall turnover was adversely affected.
The programme, with an extra race added in midweek to bring it to 10 events, attracted only $18.8 million.
Trainer Henry Lee Hon-ming, best known for having ridden the first winner at Sha Tin in 1978, was yesterday fined $5,000 by Taipa Stipendiary Stewards for having given inadequate riding instructions to claimer K. S. Tam on Happiness on January 9.
Tam, charged with not having given the horse every opportunity to win or obtain the best possible placing in the race, was suspended for four meetings.