Everything seemed back in its correct place at Happy Valley on Thursday night as Joao Moreira broke an amazing losing trot, Caspar Fownes took the training honours and Olivier Doleuze was waxing philosophical after getting himself off the mark for the season.
Moreira had gone three consecutive Valley meetings without winning a race but he quickly put that drought behind him with a peach of a ride to win his first race at the city track in a month on Dutch Windmill for Michael Chang Chun-wai.
Thirty minutes later, Moreira led throughout on Exceptional Desire for Chris So Wai-yin and, although winless for the rest of the night, some minor placings brought his tally up to 30 points and enough to get away with the night’s Jockey Challenge.
The win by Doleuze on the Caspar Fownes-trained Jumbo Happiness was the feel good story of the night, the popular Frenchman later tweeting that he had planned to watch the races at home on the couch until Fownes gave him his only ride of the night and his first win of the term.
“I’m not a light jockey, I only ride for a few stables – Michael Chang and Caspar always give me support – but there are only 12 horses a race here and more than 22 jockeys so it isn’t easy,” Doleuze said.
“I’m getting older, I still can ride and we are lucky in our profession that we can go on much longer than professionals in some other sports. But there is a new generation coming up behind and that’s just the way life goes.”
Doleuze did the hardest part of riding Jumbo Happiness when he got him safely out of the gates and into the box seat and Fownes said he was confident when he saw the four-year-old there.
“You know he’ll be strong at the finish. I think in time he’ll make a nice miler but mentally he hasn’t been right to go there yet so I’ve taken my time with him, keep him a bit fresh and run him in these sprints,” Fownes said.
“But he will go further, I’m sure. So far he hasn’t been able to cope with Sha Tin either but I think that will come in time too. He’s one of those horses, they are fine coming here, saddling up quietly and racing at night but put them in the parade yard at Sha Tin with so many people watching and they lose it.”
It was the second leg of a double for Fownes, who also scored with Premium Champion (Zac Purton), who was on the retirement list last season.
“He lost form and that was going to be it but he started to toughen up a bit as the season went on, won one near the end of last season and that kept him going,” Fownes said.
“I feel like he’s better again this season. I know he looked like he only just won tonight but Zac said he clocked off when he hit the front then came again when the placegetters ran at him.”
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai also managed a double with Keep Moving (Neil Callan) adding to Manful Star (Umberto Rispoli).
“Keep Moving is quite a nice horse. He’s stronger as a four-year-old and he’s still developing all the time,” Yiu said.
Paul O’Sullivan was singing quite the same tune after Star Majestic gave Brett Prebble his first win with the stable in more than five years, one that later cost him a two-day careless riding ban.
“I wouldn’t think Brett’s done a lot of riding for me in that time,” said O’Sullivan, with the record confirming that Prebble had only 30 mounts for the New Zealander since winning on Fascinating Smile in May, 2012.
“As for Star Majestic – just a typical Hong Kong win after a long drought. He got back to the right handicap mark, got the right draw and the right ride. Now it might get tough again.”