Double-figure winners create major headaches for punters

Robin Parke

A RARE Happy Valley day meeting turned into a minefield for punters as big-priced winners dotted the nine-race card where the team of Eric Saint-Martin and trainer Tony Cruz captured the featured event.

But even those two polished professionals brought little relief as Perfect Star, who hacked up by three lengths in the Po Leung Kuk Centenary Cup, was returned at 15-1.

The stable's other runner, Full Metal Jacket, had gone off at 9-1 but faded in the straight as Perfect Star, under a quality ride from Saint-Martin, forged to the lead to win going away from inconsistent Floral Regent (16-1) in the Classes One and Two, 1,650-metre event.

Double-figure winners were commonplace but the biggest shock of the day came from the Bruce Hutchison-trained Irish import Vintage, who held on to win the day's second event at the whopping odds of 93-1.

Punters had every reason to be reeling in the stands as Vintage, despite fair Irish form, had done absolutely nothing in 16 previous starts and had been last and second last at his two previous outings this season, beaten a combined total of 26 lengths.

It was a handy winner for the popular Australian, with a rare outside ride for Welsh-born David Harrison resulting in an unexpected winner.

On an officially good-to-firm track that certainly looked good to the eye, the day started on an awkward note for most punters when the listlessly supported Sterling Star (20-1) sauntered home in the Class Four longer sprint.

This was the Australian-bred three-year-old's first racecourse start and he won untouched by leading rider Douglas Whyte, and trainer Ivan Allan undoubtedly has something to work with here.

Sterling Star trotted up and should be going further than third-placed Just My Way (6-1), another debutant, who had been clearly wound up for his racecourse debut.

The big buzz in the opener centred around Gems, who was backed in from a surprise opening quote of almost 6-1 to half that figure when the field jumped for the 12-runner event.

Gems beat only one home and trainer David Hill was totally in the dark.

'Don't ask me where the money came from. I think he is quite a nice little horse and in time he should be all right. I was amazed at the support,' he said.

There was no relief in the fourth event when talented claimer John C. W. Mok struck again for Wong Tang-ping, who is enjoying a tremendous season.

Sound Gallop (16-1) was the horse involved and he scored a one-length win over fast-finishing topweight Legitimate (14-1) with perennial placegetter Aspiration (6-1) finishing third.

Way Ahead was the 5-1 favourite for the Classes One and Two event but knocked up while Heavy Weapon (8-1) did not really finish it off.

Popular Robbie Fradd returned wreathed in smiles when Team Honour (7-2 favourite) continued both his great season and that also being enjoyed by long-serving Alex Wong Siu-tan.

Team Honour prevailed by a neck in the Classes Three and Four distance event on the card over 2,200 metres, preventing a Saint-Martin double by a neck.

The Frenchman was aboard the John Moore-trained Fantastic (7-1), who looked the winner on straightening but was run down close to home by Team Honour.

'He was just right, really tuned for it and he showed plenty of heart in the finish. The other one [Fantastic] tried to slip away and it was touch and go for a few strides,' said Fradd. 'But my fellow doesn't mind a bit of a fight and he stuck at it.' The win brought some relief and for those still solvent, the back end of the programme proved easier.

Devotee (8-1) was not hard to find in the Class Five, 1,650-metre seventh event and produced a deserved winner for maximum claimer Roger K. H. Yu and trainer Ricky P. F. Yiu.

Devotee, on a course and over a distance that he likes, proved three-parts of a length too good for bottomweight and favourite Lekker (6-1), pushed out despairingly by Brett Doyle in an effort to catch the handy winner.