Wong strikes with historic five-timer
ASTUTE handler Wong Tang-ping made history at a packed Sha Tin yesterday when becoming the first local trainer to send out five winners since racing turned professional in 1970.
The public came en masse to see the world's most prolific female jockey Julie Krone who was meant to be the star on this inaugural Ladies' Day meeting.
But it was Wong who played the main lead with a mind-boggling 2,832-1 accumulator from Northern Fire Ball in the second, Derby contender Polar Star in the third, Miss Piggy in the feature event, the Ladies' Purse, Top Performance in the sixth and finally Star Of Marble in the eighth.
The only other trainer to send out a five-timer was when Bob Burns saddled a nap hand for Peter Miers, also at Sha Tin, some 14 years ago.
'I'm going to go out and have a quiet meal with my sons, some friends and some owners,' said a modest Wong after racing.
'I also want to point out it wasn't just me who was responsible for the wins. There's my staff and the jockeys to consider.' Wong was fulsome in his praise for the diminutive Krone who proved beyond doubt that she's an effervescent winning machine.
If Wong played the lead then Krone certainly deserves an Oscar for her role as best supporting actress.
'Her ride on Northern Fire Ball proved that she's a top jockey, a really good rider.
'She also did exactly what I asked on Polar Star. I was worried about traffic jams on the inside and told her to keep out of trouble,' stressed Wong.
Krone would love to come back and ride in the territory and could be a one-month visitor next season.
'I'd certainly like to come back and ride here again,' she said. 'My commitments in the United States would allow me to come for one month rather than three.
'And everything here has surpassed my expectations - the quality of the horses, the atmosphere and the racing surface.
'It is not one of the best surfaces I have ever ridden on, it is the best.' However, the first thing Krone must do when she returns home is have 14 screws and two plates taken out of her right ankle.
She also won an admirer in Geoff Lane, himself a former top jockey in Australia.
'Boy, they really travel for her and she doesn't mind kicking in amongst them. She's game,' said Lane after Krone had ridden Feodor into fourth for him in the last.
Krone didn't appear to cover herself in glory in the opening event when beaten into second on 9-5 hotpot Blaze Of Glory.
Some $7.3 million in win bets went down the tube and there were a few raised eyebrows as Krone took her mount from an inside draw to the centre of the track, losing more ground than by which Captive Trick beat her. But there were valid excuses as she rode the race with a slipped saddle.
A record-breaking 56,860 ventured to Sha Tin for Ladies' Day with some 18,866 women gaining free admission and a $30 meal voucher.
This beat the previous Saturday best attendance established at the final meeting of 1988 by over 3,000. Another 9,445 watched from Happy Valley.
Ladies' Day is almost certain to be repeated again next season with Jockey Club officials all smiles at the way it had gone.
'We would definitely like to repeat it,' said chief executive Major General Guy Watkins.
French challenger Dernier Empereur won the Dubai Champion Stakes at Newmarket yesterday and Andre Fabre's brilliant colt is now out of the 2,400-metre International Vase at Sha Tin in December.
Dernier Empereur (8-1) won the Group One event in the last stride from the locally-trained Grand Lodge (5-1).
In the absence of Dernier Empereur, French-trained Tikkanen moves up from his position as first reserve.