The countdown is on with two more jockeys and two more trainers getting their first wins for the season at Happy Valley last night, and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu made the most of his breakthrough in the Citi Sprint Challenge Cup on Both Lucky by adding a second in the final race as well.
Ho combined with his former boss Caspar Fownes as Both Lucky shocked punters at 47-1, but the pair teamed again with a better fancied victory in the last race as Sichuan Dar followed the pattern of the night, using the rail on the C+3 course to good effect and keeping an unbeaten Valley record.
Six of the eight winners made their finish up the rail in the home straight, a familiar theme on that course at any time, but it was a dashing ride from Ho to do it on Both Lucky, who had drawn wide.
“I thought I could come here tonight and win three races until I saw the draws and I was gutted. It makes it hard on the C+3, “Fownes said.
“With Both Lucky coming out of nine, at least he had a pace to suit him, but Vincent gave him a great ride. Despite the odds, I was really happy with this horse coming into the race.
“When I got him during last season, I couldn’t get him to shake his winter coat, he had niggling, jointy
issues all the time, but the last couple of weeks he has been very comfortable, so I thought he could run well.”
Alvin Ng Ka-chun got off the mark, too, leading throughout on Tony Cruz-trained Happy Spirit, leaving five riders still on zero, while just three trainers have still to put a score on the board for the new season – Francis Lui Kin-wai, Derek Cruz and Benno Yung Tin-pang.
Richard Gibson saddled up Class Five winner Shining Champion (Neil Callan) to break the ice, while Gary Ng Ting-keung led in Very Rich Man (Douglas Whyte) to follow suit.
“We always knew Shining Champion’s gig was going to be Class Five,” said Gibson.
“His first run back for the new season and in this class was good, he’d come on for it and Neil gave him a cool ride. It’s certainly nice to get off the mark.”
Whyte had done a lot of work on Ng-trained Very Rich man, trying to harness his good speed and find a way around the horse’s mental immaturity.
“He is a bit schizo, but he has come a long way from where he was when he started and with the speed he has, there is something to work with as he learns,” Whyte said.
“Gary has allowed me to give this horse probably more good gallops than he normally would because I said to him there was a worry the horse would get all fired up in the race if he was too fresh.
“But he will gain a lot from the experience tonight, following horses and going to the line.”
Chad Schofield played another starring role with a double and has not wasted any time recovering from having to miss the first three race days with a suspension, racing to four winners.
He never went around a runner winning on Tony Millard-trained Mi Savvy Boy in the first then controlled the speed in the lead on the fence with Graceful Kingdom for Ricky Yiu Poon-fai.
“The owner wanted to retire Mi Savvy Boy,” explained trainer Millard after the Class Five battler had scraped in.
“But I thought he’d come this far with the horse, we should at least get a win out of him. He’s not the most reliable horse though, so you’d have to wonder whether there is another one in him.”