A night that celebrates some of the best jockeys in the world might be looked back on as the meeting where trainer John Size truly kicked his championship defence into gear.
Size is a noted slow starter but even by his standards he began the 2016-17 campaign at a snail’s pace, saddling up just 14 runners at the first five meetings and leading in one winner during September.
The eight-time champion is warming to the task now though and a treble has the 62-year-old moving ominously up the table with nearly a third of the season gone.
Wins by Love Shock (Joao Moreira), Premiere (Hugh Bowman) and Big Bang Bong (Keita Tosaki) at Happy Valley last night gave Size 20 wins with 28 meetings gone and fourth place in the championship, four wins behind early leader Chris So Wai-yin.
The scary part for rivals was that all three winners are young horses just finding their way – particularly three-year-olds Premiere and northern hemisphere import Big Bang Bong.
“They just needed a little bit of racing,” Size said of the younger duo. “Premiere was just lacking that little bit of nous to go on and win at Sha Tin up the straight, but getting the chance to sit in behind some horses probably suited him, as did the short straight, the time Big Bang Bong has taken, you would expect for a European horse.”
Love Shock had won two from four before finishing unplaced from wide draws at his first two this term, and came up with yet another awkward barrier.
The bulky sprinter made short work of his Class Three rivals though, Moreira going back and charging down the centre of the course.
“He has some pace, but he can be a little bit ordinary out of the gates, so we took him back,” Size said. “The winner of the previous race had come from last down the middle of the track so it wasn’t impossible to do.”
The win Size was referring to was that of Me Tsui Yu-sak’s six-year-old sprinter Almababy (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu), although that come-from-behind effort wouldn’t have been possible without a perfect race setup.
Moment Of Power was sent forward by Bowman and ended up posted in a fast-run race, creating pressure up front and allowing swoopers to dominate.
“I’m a bit worried how he will win again soon, because I don’t think he will get that lucky again,” Tsui said, highlighting the fact Almababy, who usually leads or sits handy, was even blessed by missing the start. “If he got away with them he wouldn’t have won.”
Moreira ended up with a double when Wonderful Fighter scored as a heavily bet favourite, giving him 50 wins for the season so far, but it was Ryan Moore being labelled the “world’s best jockey” by trainer Tony Millard.
When Moore was drawn to ride Giant Turtle for the South African in the second leg of the International Jockeys’ Championship, he knew what to expect from the Englishman.
“Everything Ryan does shows you he is a professional, just the way he handles himself, he has such an inner-confidence,” Millard said. “This horse has been unlucky at times lately and been knocking on the door, but tonight it all lined up for him, the right race, the right jockey and, not surprisingly, he gave him the perfect ride.”
All four of Olivier Doleuze’s wins this season have been for Michael Chang Chun-wai – who has just five wins himself – after Dutch Windmill scored in the Class Five opener.
“We are sticking together,” Chang said. “We are good friends and I’ll keep supporting Olivier.”
Another perfect race setup resulted in a blow-out result in the last when Supreme Profit arrived late in the last courtesy of what looked a perfectly judged ride by Silvestre de Sousa.
“Actually, they just went too fast, I actually wanted to be closer but couldn’t get there,” de Sousa said. “It was his first run on the track, I just needed to let him get his feet under him so he could finish off.”