Buoyed by the return of the swashbuckling Belgian riding ace Christophe Soumillon, Hong Kong horse players combined to give the Jockey Club its first HK$1 billion turnover for the season at the New Year's day meeting at Sha Tin. Jockey Club chief executive designate, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, said the bumper day - with the crowd up 10 per cent to 38,967 - had given the Jockey Club 'a tremendous start' to 2007. 'There was a very good crowd and wonderful atmosphere at the course,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said. 'We are naturally delighted with the turnover, breaking a billion dollars for the first time this season was really a positive.' The return of Soumillon, who has made Hong Kong his winter base for five seasons, was a big fillip for the holiday crowd and the champion didn't let his army of fans down, storming to victory in the ninth event on the John Moore-trained Inspiration. The Jockey Club helped the atmosphere with a presentation to Soumillon of his award as the Most Popular Jockey in Hong Kong for last season - a gong decided on the votes of 250,000 members of the voting public. The low point of the day, however, was the unplaced performance of Silent Witness, who started HK$29 favourite before coming home seventh behind stablemate Floral Pegasus in the Group Three Chinese Club Challenge Cup.