'I've never been so happy to finish fifth in a race,' says Aussie Australia's Damien Oliver landed a soft win and a hard-fought second in the first two legs of last night's International Jockeys' Championship, but it was a far less obvious performance that saw him hold the champion's trophy aloft. Oliver's final mount, Kindred Spirits, scrambled into fifth in the third and final leg of the series - by a mere nose - and the points earned for that modest effort provided the Melbourne champion with a one-point win over America's Victor Espinoza. 'I've never been so happy to finish fifth in a race,' a suntanned and beaming Oliver said after the trophy presentation. 'This is certainly a great thrill and one of the highlights of my career. When you look at this field of 12, you simply couldn't pick a stronger group of jockeys, and riding on a unique course like Happy Valley makes it even more competitive. 'This is the third time I've been invited to the series and I finished second to Frankie Dettori two years ago. All the jockeys love coming here for this series and the contour of the track always makes it interesting - it's definitely an advantage to have ridden here before.' Oliver had landed the third race on last night's seven-event card on the John Size-trained Ace Academy by 11/4 lengths, bouncing straight to the front in the IJC count over Japan's Yutaka Take (Tiramisu) and Espinoza (Flying Kenny). In the second leg, the dual Melbourne Cup-winning hoop was sent out favourite on the Tony Cruz-trained Zerubbabel and gave the Carnegie gelding the run of the race. 'Unfortunately, he wasn't able to quicken off that slow pace under his big weight of 132 pounds,' Oliver said, 'and a couple of the more lightly weighted horses got up around him and created a bit of a traffic problem. 'If the pace had been more genuine and he'd been able to get clear run at them, he might have been able to win, but the winner was a bit too sharp after getting such a soft lead.' At that point, with two races down, Oliver was in the driver's seat. 'I did the maths and knew I had to finish in the first five in the final race to win, provided Howard Cheng didn't win another one. And Victor Espinoza was the other possibility, but he was on a 16-1 chance with a big weight.' Call it Murphy's Law if you like, but it was Espinoza on that topweight, Classa Win, who came steaming home down the centre of the course to trample his rivals in the third leg. Defying a slow pace, which should have suited the forward-running brigade, Classa Win gave lie to the face value of his dreadful formline and showed rare acceleration in the final 200 metres to win the Class Three, 1,650-metre race by 11/2 lengths. Howard Cheng Yue-tin won the middle leg, leading all the way on Shanghai Friend for rookie trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing. It was Cheng's 100th winner in Hong Kong and the leading local rider celebrated vigorously when he hit the winning post two lengths clear of Oliver. 'This has been a very good year for me and this is a wonderful moment,' Cheng said. 'I was determined to lead and I was very pleased the others let me get away with a very slow pace. I knew once we hit the 600 metres, and they had not put pressure on me, that my horse was going well enough to win.' The series kicked off with controversy when Frankie Dettori's mount, Champion Speed, clipped heels and broke down on the home turn. Dettori had almost pulled the David Oughton-trained Danehill gelding to a standstill when he suddenly jumped off, but the world's highest-profile jockey twisted his right ankle when he hit the ground awkwardly. The famous Italian lay on the ground, writhing in pain, before being assisted by ambulance offers and taken to the casualty rooms. He was stood down from his remaining two mounts, which were both picked up by Gerald Mosse. One of them was French Connection, runner-up to Classa Win in the final leg. Jockey Club director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, said early indications were positive that Dettori would be fit to fulfil his engagements at Sha Tin on Sunday. In an amazing coincidence, the same two trainers who provided the three Jockeys' Championship winners in 2002 provided two of the three last night. John Size, who prepared two of the three last year, prepared Oliver's winner Ace Academy, while Peter Ho Leung provided Espinoza's mount Classa Win.